The attorney for a former East Los Angeles College dean and local school board president accused of embezzlement said Sunday that his client denies the criminal allegations filed against him last week by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
In a statement distributed by his attorney on Sunday, Paul De La Cerda — the former board president of the Saugus Union School District, who’s held a number of education-related positions throughout Southern California since stepping away from the Saugus district a few years back — is described as a lifelong volunteer and educator who “refutes all allegations pertaining to any criminal allegations.”
Investigators have alleged that between March 2017 and 2019, De La Cerda stayed at the Sacramento Hyatt Regency, Sacramento Sheraton Grand Hotel and Washington, D.C., Marriott Marquis. He then, according to the criminal complaint, overbilled East Los Angeles College, his employer at the time, $1,575 for the stays by forging documents he submitted for reimbursement.
He has been charged on suspicion of one felony count each of misappropriation of government funds and embezzlement of government funds. In California, embezzlement can be treated as felony if the amount allegedly stolen exceeds $950.
“The best part of the criminal justice system is we do not jump to conclusions,” read the statement from David Diamond, De La Cerda’s defense attorney. “My client has devoted his entire life to serving others. I look forward to our day in court.”
Diamond is also representing Bill Bolde, a former Saugus High School principal who was charged Monday with one felony count each of perjury and conflict of interest in connection to a student exchange program he helped set up.
De La Cerda is expected to be arraigned on Jan. 7 in Department 30 of the Foltz Criminal Justice Center.
The case remains under investigation by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Fraud and Cyber Crimes division.
De La Cerda began his tenure on the Saugus Union School District board in 2005 and served three consecutive terms of four years, plus one additional year to align the election cycle years. He also served in 2008-2010 in a marketing position for The Signal.
He has served in a number of education-related positions since retiring from the board in 2018, and as of the publication of this article, was a listed member of the city of Santa Clarita Human Relations Roundtable.