Co-conspirators get 21 years in state prison collectively
By Terry Miller
When an embezzlement scheme that siphoned off $6.4 million in city funds was uncovered in 2014 and a city employee arrested, the entire city, staffers and community was in shock that something like this could happen: literally daylight robbery of massive proportions over a 10-year period of time.
For over a decade, Danny Wooten created false invoices for Pasadena’s UUT underground utility program and no one discovered it. A city audit eventually found Wooten had submitted hundreds of altered invoices. Wooten apparently added digits to the dollar amount before claiming payments.
Along with the money that was directed to Tyrone Collins and Melody Jenkins, Wooten also created bank accounts in his name and directed city money to two religious organizations with which he was associated.
It would be a month’s long investigation and at the head of the pack was then city manager, Michael Beck who faced the majority of the scrutiny until the pieces in the puzzle began to fit.
Wooten, a former Pasadena public works analyst and a contractor, was sentenced Friday Jan. 11 for embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars in city money over a decade, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced. Wooten was sentenced to 14 years in state prison, while co-defendant Collins received a seven-year term. In November, Wooten was found guilty of 53 counts, including embezzlement, conflict of interest and misappropriation of public funds. Collins was convicted of 20 counts, including embezzlement and misappropriation of public funds.
Deputy District Attorney Bjorn Dodd of the Public Integrity Division prosecuted the case.
Wooten was a management analyst in the city’s Public Works Department, which was in charge of relocating all of the city’s utility lines underground. Between 2004 and March 2014, Wooten created false invoices for the underground utility program and stole roughly $3.5 million. He funneled some of the stolen money to Collins, who owns Collins Electric, the prosecutor said. Wooten also created bank accounts purporting to represent two religious organizations. However, he was the only person on the account, the prosecutor said. The scheme was discovered in 2014 when the city ordered an audit. Wooten was ordered to pay $3,695,891 in restitution and Collins was ordered to pay $900,000, the prosecutor added. The case was investigated by the District Attorney’s Bureau of Investigation and the City of Pasadena.