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Ex-Lynwood school official gets 8 years for stealing $700,000

January 4, 2013 | 11:47 am

A former finance chief of the Lynwood Unified School District convicted of taking more than $700,000 in public funds to fund a lavish life style of high-end restaurants, expensive hotels and sports tickets was sentenced Friday to eight years in prison.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Michael Tynan handed down one of the longest sentences in the county for theft of public funds to William Agopian  and also ordered him to pay back the money and an additional $121,220 to the Franchise Tax Board, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Dana Aratani.

Agopian, 61, in November pleaded guilty to one felony count each of misappropriation of public funds and filing a false tax return in connection with a scheme in which he siphoned money from a bank account established to finance a sister city trip to Mexico for students.

"We think it is a fair disposition of the case. This is significant state prison time," said Aratani of the D.A.'s Public Integrity Division. He said the prison time would send a message to anyone thinking of stealing public funds.

As part of his plea, Agopian admitted to aggravated white-collar crime and excessive-taking allegations, Aratani said. 

Aratani said the Santa Ana man used the money to finance a lavish life style that included hotel bills, gasoline bills, restaurant bills and sports tickets, including those for the San Diego Padres. He drained the district for four years.

The theft remained undiscovered until district officials researching ways to save money on bank fees came upon the secret account that required only Agopian's signature for withdrawals, according to prosecutors. "He had an ATM card on that account," Aratani. "He took cash whenever he wanted."

"We believe we are going to get back all the money for the schoolchildren," Aratani said.

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-- Richard Winton

Follow Richard Winton (@LACrimes) on Twitter and Google+

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