The Los Angeles County District Attorney has issued the following statement to members of the media on Tuesday morning:
“A West Basin Municipal Water District director along with a married couple with ties to the director have been charged with an elaborate embezzlement scheme to help the director pay about $20,000 in personal expenses, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced today.”
“Ronald Craig Smith (dob 5/08/59), who serves as treasurer of the water district, Robert Earl Katherman Jr. (dob 6/22/46) and his wife, Marilyn Katherman (dob 11/11/48), are charged in case YA090605. Deputy District Attorney Alison Matsumoto Estrada with the Public Integrity Division is assigned to the case.”
“The Kathermans were in Los Angeles County Superior Court in Torrance this morning for arraignment, but it was rescheduled for Aug. 27. Smith pleaded not guilty last week and returns to Department 4 in Torrance on Aug. 12 to set a date for his preliminary hearing.”
“Smith is charged with seven felony counts, including two counts of misappropriation of public funds, four counts of perjury and one count of conflict of interest. The Kathermans are charged with two counts each of misappropriation of public funds.”
“Prosecutors said that the embezzlement scheme occurred after Smith got the West Basin Municipal Water District board to make multiple contributions to help sponsor the Adopt A Storm Drain Foundation, a nonprofit educational foundation to promote water conservation run by the Kathermans.”
“The contributions occurred over a three-year period, beginning in August 2010.
During the same period, Smith also contributed money from his district outreach fund that did not need board approval, prosecutors said.”
“Shortly after receiving the West Basin donations, prosecutors allege the Kathermans began writing checks from foundation accounts to schools and organizations that had no connection to the foundation. The checks allegedly covered school and college tuition and paid for tennis and dance lessons for
Smith’s children. Adopt A Storm Drain checks also allegedly paid for repairs to Smith’s boat and his rent.”
“Smith also allegedly wrote checks from his West Basin discretionary account to pay various school expenses for his children. In all, about $20,000 was stolen, prosecutors say. If convicted, Smith faces up to nine years in state prison. The Kathermans each face up to four years in state prison if convicted as charged.”
The case remains under investigation by the Torrance Police Department
ORIGINAL POST BELOW!
By Randy Economy and Brian Hews
Robert Katherman, a powerful elected director on the Water Replenishment District of Southern California was arraigned this morning on two felony counts, one for misappropriation public funds, and the other count of felony Conflict of Interest, Hews Media Group-Community Newspaper can confirm.
In addition, his wife Martha Katherman was charged in the same case and was also charged with two same felony counts.
The Katherman’s appeared in Torrance Superior Court and both were immediately released without bail.
Details about the case have not surfaced publicly, but HMG-CN has spoken to several sources close to Katherman who confirm that the elected official was informed late last week that he would be charged along with his wife.
Jane Robison, a spokesperson for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office would not comment on the matter on Monday afternoon. “I have no comment,” Robison told HMG-CN in a very brief phone interview.
HMG-CN is also learning that the case against the Katherman’s is in direct connection with last week’s arrest of West Basin Municipal Water District Director Ronald Smith.
Katherman is also a key senior staff member with Los Angeles City Councilman Curren Price where he serves as Deputy Chief of Staff for Planning and Economic Development. HMG-CN called Price’s office in Downtown Los Angeles on Monday afternoon to speak to Katherman, and a receptionist said that he was “in a meeting and not available.”
Last week, Smith was arrested and charged on seven felony counts including two counts of Penal Code section 424 (A), misuse of public funds and was charged with one count of violating Government Code section 1090 that prohibits a government official from having a financial interest in a contract entered into by his agency. Smith was also charged with four counts of violating Penal Code section 118. Robison said that the statute makes it a crime to file a false affidavit
The specific charges being filed against the Katherman’s have not been announced by the District Attorney’s Office, but it is anticipated that District Attorney Jackie Lacey will be issuing a formal statement about the case sometime on Tuesday.
Katherman was elected to the Board in 2004 and according to his bio on the WRD website, he has more than 30 years of experience in land use planning, environmental impact analysis and governmental and community relations. He represents a wide portion of the South Bay and the Harbor area.
Both will be due back in court later this month.
HMG-CN will have additional details as they develop throughout the day..
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