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Ricasa fined Robert Moreno | Wed, Apr 09 2014 04:00 PM

Former Sweetwater Union High School District board member Arlie Ricasa, who pleaded guilty in December to a misdemeanor charge of receiving gifts above state law limits, on Wednesday was ordered by a San Diego Superior Court Judge to pay a $4,589 fine, conduct 80 hours of community work and serve 36 months of probation.

Judge Ana Espana said Ricasa’s probation started at the time the guilty plea was entered, not at the time of sentencing, therefore she only needs to complete the remaining 33 months.

Ricasa’s attorney Allen Bloom argued that Ricasa shouldn’t receive a hefty fine because she has suffered financially as she is in the process of being demoted from her job at Southwestern College and no longer receives the $875 a month stipend for serving on the Sweetwater school board.

As part of a Dec. 18 plea deal, Ricasa resigned from her position as a school board member.

“This plea has put her position in jeopardy,” he said.

“She has suffered a demotion from one position. She isn’t fired, she is demoted from an administrative spot to a staff position (at Southwestern College) and that stands for her to lose $16,000 a year.”

Bloom said Ricasa is in the process of being demoted from her role as director of Extended Opportunity Program Services to a staff position.

The annual salary for the director position is $124,668.

But Espana said Ricasa is getting the same fine as those who have already pleaded to misdemeanors.

“I am applying that fine to all of the defendants who have also pled to misdemeanors,” she said.

Ricasa said she is happy to put this case behind her.

“I’m very thankful of the support from all my friends and family, the community, the support of my attorney that this is now over and we can all move forward,” she said.     

Southwestern College governing board member Humberto Peraza declined to comment on Ricasa’s sentencing stating it is a “personnel issue.”

On Monday, Espana reduced a felony charge of conspiracy to a misdemeanor for bond underwriter Gary Cabello, who pleaded guilty in October for his misdealing in the Sweetwater and Southwestern College districts.

With the felony reduction, Cabello avoided custody time as Espana sentenced him to three years probation with a $7,994 fine.

He also was ordered to fulfill 100 hours of community service.

Cabello apologized to the judge for his actions.

“I just want to say that I’m extremely remorseful, and again I’m sorry for the damage I’ve caused to the South Bay community.”

Also on Monday, former Southwestern College President Raj Chopra received three years probation and a $4,589 fine for his October misdemeanor guilty plea for not reporting income on the proper state disclosure forms.
Chopra’s attorney, Kraig Jennett, asked Espana if she could reduce the fine because he was charged with a misdemeanor not a felony.

Last week, two more school administrators changed their pleas to guilty three weeks before they were set to go to trial.

Former Sweetwater Union High School District Superintendant Jesus Gandara and former board member Gregorio Sandoval both pleaded guilty to a felony charge of conspiracy and a misdemeanor charge of not reporting gifts.

“Dr. Gandara did not fill out properly the forms he was required to fill out and he’s accepted responsibility for that,” said Gandara’s attorney Paul Pfingst. “And he accepted gifts over the  $420 limit that is permitted by law.”

San Diego Superior Court Judge Ana Espana said both defendants face a maximum of three years in state prison, but she indicated that the two defendants likely won’t get more than a year of custody time.

Deputy District Attorney Leon Schorr said he is satisfied with the outcome of the pleas.

When Gandara was first indicted by the District Attorney’s Office in 2012 he faced a number of charges that ranged from extortion to bribery.

A June 20 sentencing date is set for Sandoval while Gandara will be sentenced June 27.

San Ysidro trustee Yolanda Hernandez had her sentencing date continued for April 26.

Fifteen people were originally indicted when the district attorney opened the case in 2012, now only three defendants remain.

Board members Jim Cartmill and Bertha Lopez, and President of Seville Construction Jeffrey Flores are the remaining defendants.

This story was updated at 4 p.m. April 10.

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Kevin Says:

Fri, Apr 11 2014 04:08 PM

It is unfortunate that once again those in position authority have exchanged their responsibility to the people for self financial gain. It makes it very difficult to trust even respected community leaders, not to mention those we trust with our already frail education system. Shame!


anniej Says:

Thu, Apr 10 2014 02:03 PM

We, too, the taxpaying community, are thankful that the reign of corruption is coming to an end. Let all politicians be mindful that their representation is a responsibility and that we will NO longer stand for anything short of honesty, integrity and true character in those that choose to 'serve' -


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