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Prosecutors probing missing money from Montebello bank accounts

February 23, 2011 | 10:52 am

L.A. County prosecutors said they will investigate the city of Montebello over reports that city funds have been mismanaged or drained from off-the-books accounts.

The matter of the unofficial bank accounts came to a head last week, when officials disclosed that about $900,000 from an off-the-books Union Bank investment account could not be immediately accounted for. There's now $5,000 left in the account, which came to light when an employee in the Montebello finance department discovered a bank statement and alerted the city finance director.

That follows the discovery a few weeks ago of a second off-the-books account at Banco Popular containing $240,000, which showed withdrawals in 2004 and a deposit in 2007. City officials said they learned of the account after Banco Popular contacted the city because there had been no recent activity.

"We opened an inquiry yesterday to determine whether a criminal investigation is warranted," Dave Demerjian, head deputy district attorney in charge of the public integrity unit, said Wednesday.

Officials in Montebello, which has a $45-million general fund budget and a projected $2-million deficit, say they don't know why the accounts were created, why they weren't on the city's books or who received the money that appears to have been transferred out over the years.

Fiscal troubles abound in the city of about 65,000 in southeastern Los Angeles County: Federal officials say Montebello misused $1.3 million in federal housing money and want it back; a city official discovered $5 million in debt a few weeks ago; and the city has been sued by a businessman who alleges it illegally borrowed up to $19 million from its redevelopment agency last fall.


Fiscal mess fuels crisis in Montebello

Bell's corruption scandal has boosted scrutiny of other cities

-- Richard Winton and Jessica Garrison