Arroyo Grande man sentenced in embezzlement case
July 5, 2014
An Arroyo Grande man was sentenced on Thursday to three years in state prison for stealing $113,000 from the Santa Barbara County Firefighters Union. [Independent]
A 20-year-veteran of the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, Robert Perez was elected by the union to manage its $1 million-per-year insurance account in 2001. His fellow firefighters and union brothers agreed to pay Perez $400 a month on top of his firefighter’s salary for handling the account and paying expenses.
However, between 2006 and 2013 Perez siphoned money from the account to buy his wife jewelry, pay for her cell phone, to purchase a laptop and assist the couple in trading in their old house in Arroyo Grande for a more expensive home. The union discovered the thefts last August during an audit.
In Perez’ defense, his attorney Steve Balash said that Perez had gotten into a bind after adopting his wife’s special needs children, who they received monthly government checks for. Balash argued that Perez’ years of service to the community, rescue work, and multiple awards were examples of his character.