Preliminary hearing for Greatrex to continue Nov. 29
A San Diego police detective testified Nov. 14 that an agency reportedly paid by Cindy Greatrex for grant writing services when she was president of the La Jolla Park and Recreation Council turned out to be only a post office box in Chicago that was associated with Greatrex's phone number.
Greatrex, 51, is charged with grand theft and is suspected of stealing $67,935 from the non-profit organization that she used to run for president. She stepped down and later sent out an email saying she meant well, but she used council funds to try and get a new playground in the area.
Greatrex is accused of writing numerous checks to herself, and board members testified Tuesday all checks are supposed to have two board members' signatures, a process she bypassed.
Greatrex has pleaded not guilty. She remains free on $70,000 bond.
Detective Bernie Piceno told San Diego Superior Court Judge Amalia Meza that he found a Chicago company, which was paid with council funds, but the address turned out to be a post office box. This Chicago agency also listed Greatrex's telephone number in San Diego with her photo on a website, he said.
Piceno said he talked with two San Diego construction companies with similar names that were listed in records as receiving $2,500, but the owners said they had never heard of Greatrex. Their names came up as performing some type of services that Greatrex claimed she paid with her own money and then reimbursed herself.
The preliminary hearing will resume on Nov. 29 as some witnesses were unable to testify this week. Meza will decide whether she should stand trial for grand theft or if the case should be dismissed.
Greatrex's attorney, Paul Neuharth, Jr., wants to present some witnesses and documents that would bolster his client's claim that she did pay for grant-writing services out of her own funds. He will ask Meza to dismiss the case at the end of the hearing.
Neuharth said people needed to be paid for grant writing services and such applicants for grants are not written for free.
The detective testified he met with interim president Mary Munk, the former treasurer, and another board member to discuss the withdrawals of $25,832.74 from the group's savings account, and $18,270 from the checking account. He said they all noticed that Greatrex wrote checks to herself and did not have a second board member sign them as required.
Piceno said he noticed one withdrawal was for $5,000 in cash. Piceno said he obtained bank camera footage that showed Greatrex making all the withdrawals. Greatrex also deposited funds from the council into her own Wells Fargo bank account and bank cameras showed she made those deposits, said the detective.
Piceno did confirm he contacted a web designer from La Mesa who said he received a check from Greatrex for work he did for her. However, the web designer said the work was for other nonprofit groups and not for the La Jolla Park and Recreation Council, said the detective.
Munk testified Greatrex relieved the group's treasurer of all his duties in 2016 and took over his job.
"We definitely did not vote to change the bylaws," said Munk, as to the rule of requiring two board members' signatures on checks.
"The expenditures could not be explained," said Munk, who testified she and another board member went to the bank to look at checks and withdrawals taken by Greatrex. "They gave us copies of everything," added Munk.
"We did not find any (council) approvals" for some expenses, said Munk, who added they could not find invoices for things that Greatrex paid.
Board member Nicole Otjens testified there was a rule change when Greatrex became president and she held bank records herself. Previously, the bank statements and other documents were held on-site in their offices at 615 Prospect St.
Otjens said Greatrex wanted to get more funds for recreation centers via various grants.