Former school district administrator, contractor charged with stealing funds

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2223

RIVERSIDE (CNS) – A former assistant superintendent for the Corona-Norco Unified School District and the contractor he hired to handle numerous projects are each charged with more than two dozen felony offenses for allegedly perpetrating an embezzlement scheme that resulted in more than $1 million in losses to the district, authorities said on Thursday.
Ted Eugene Rozzi, 60, of Redlands and Edward Curtis Mierau, 65, of Ladera Ranch are named in a 30-count criminal complaint filed earlier this week by the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office.
Rozzi surrendered to D.A.’s investigators this morning at the Riverside Hall of Justice. He has been released on his own recognizance and is slated to return to court next month for arraignment. Mierau’s surrender was pending Thursday.
The complaint lists charges of money laundering, embezzlement, misappropriation of public funds and conflict of interest against both defendants.
“We are angry and very disappointed that an executive-level administrator in our district would abuse his position of trust to manipulate our facilities accounts for his own financial gain,” CNUSD Superintendent Michael Lin said of Rozzi. “The school district will do everything legally possible to recoup any financial losses we have suffered.”
According to the prosecution, the investigation into the alleged thefts began over two years ago, after two CNUSD employees uncovered suspicious transactions involving Ontario-based Neff Construction, which specializes in school facilities construction and where Rozzi is chief executive officer.
Sheriff’s detectives were contacted after the school district conducted an internal review, culminating in a wider inspection of payment records, all of which were tied to Rozzi, who managed school district construction projects, prosecutors allege.
He resigned his position in August 2017, following 25 years as assistant superintendent, according to CNUSD officials.
The D.A.’s office said the alleged scheme that netted $1.1 million in ill-gotten gains for Rozzi stemmed from falsified work orders that the defendant arranged to have submitted to the district by Neff Construction. Rozzi essentially received payoffs from Mierau, who covered his end by billing the district for whatever he paid his co-defendant, prosecutors allege.
The alleged scheme began in December 2011 and ended in May 2017, according to the complaint.
“We took swift action by restructuring departments to add new layers of accountability,” Lin said regarding the fallout of the investigation. “We are committed to ongoing auditing of our practices and procedures.”
The real estate assets of both defendants, who have properties in Riverside, Orange, San Bernardino and San Diego counties, have been frozen by court order, according to the D.A.’s office.