Greatrex charged with misappropriation of funds
by DAVE SCHWAB
Published - 09/08/17 - 08:39 AM | 0 0 comments | 24 24 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cindy Greatrex has been charged with embezzling funds from the La Jolla Recreation Council.
Cindy Greatrex has been charged with embezzling funds from the La Jolla Recreation Council.
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An arrest warrant and Superior Court case alleges Cindy Greatrex stole $67,935.86 from the La Jolla Park and Recreation Committee while president of that nonprofit group between May 2016 and February 2017.

She and her attorney answer that claim is false — and that they have the documentation to prove it.

Greatrex has posted $70,000 bail on a charge of 487(B)(3) PC, defined in the California Penal Code as grand theft, which includes circumstances, "Where the money, labor, or real or personal property is taken by a servant, agent, or employee from his or her principal or employer and aggregates $950 or more in any 12 consecutive month period."

Greatrex has a special allegation, PC12022.6(a)(1), defined as the taking of property.

She first appeared in San Diego Superior Court on July 18 to answer charges against her. A preliminary exam for her is scheduled Friday, Sept. 15 at 8:30 a.m. at San Diego Superior Court, Central Division, County Courthouse, Dept. 11.

When theft involves property stolen valued at over $950, the charge can become grand theft. A felony theft conviction is punishable by 16 months to three years in custody. In California, felony grand theft is codified under Penal Code Section 487.

Grand theft is a “wobbler” offense, meaning grand theft in California may either be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. In determining whether to charge the crime as a misdemeanor or a felony, the prosecutor will consider the specific circumstances of the case, and the person’s prior criminal history.

Court documents state San Diego Police Detective Sgt. John Harberth met with La Jolla Parks and Recreation vice president Mary Munk on March 16 to investigate an embezzlement/grand theft claim brought by the parks group against Greatrex, its former president.

Munk became acting recreation council president after Greatrex was asked — and agreed — to step down from her post following park fund mismanagement allegations.

A New York State native, Greatrex is a high-profile civic activist in La Jolla. She has been involved with grassroots efforts aimed at La Jolla's breaking away from the city of San Diego and becoming its own municipality. She has been a member of most civic groups in the community including the La Jolla Community Planning Association, which makes land-use recommendations to the city, the La Jolla Town Council and various other community boards and subcommittees.

Greatrex's attorney, Paul H. Neuharth, Jr., answered the allegations leveled against her.

“I'm very hopeful the entire matter will be dismissed at the preliminary hearing, once the court has the opportunity to view the receipts for the (park) funds, and to hear from the witnesses, who were the recipients of those funds,” said Neuharth. 

Added Neuharth, “It turns out the majority of the money went to grant writing for the La Jolla Recreation Center. You have to pay people to write those grants. They don't get written for free.”

Neuharth confirmed their side was “offered a plea bargain,” while adding, “I can't discuss it further. But I will tell you we're very comfortable with the receipts (defense).”

In court documents from the case of The People versus Cindy Greatrex, it is stated by Bernie Piceno, a longtime peace officer employed by the city of San Diego alleges that, “The defendant embezzled more than $60,000 in company funds for her own personal gain. The defendant manipulated the company's financial procedures to conceal the stolen monies.”

Additionally, Piceno alleges that Greatrex “made out company checks made payable to herself or cash, and these checks were cashed by her through her Wells Fargo bank accounts. These checks contained just her signature; bypassing board policy of having two authorizing signatures. … She used La Jolla Park and Recreation checks to pay for expenses unrelated to La Jolla Park and Recreation. These expenses were for work done for other nonprofit organizations in which Greatrex was a board member.”

In court documents, Piceno added Greatrex “sent an email to some of the park group's board members stating she would pay back money for her wrongdoings. The total loss was $67,935.86.”

The court document said Greatrex' accounts showed 21 unauthorized La Jolla Parks and Recreation checks being deposited into her accounts and numerous cash deposits being made into her accounts.

An allegation of mismanagement of a playground fund with nonprofit La Jolla Recreation Council first surfaced in March 2017. At that time, an inside source requesting anonymity told La Jolla Village News that an amount of money originally estimated at $40,000 was reported missing by a recreation council board member.

Contacted by La Jolla Village News the morning of April 20, Greatrex, when informed that some playground funds had been reported missing, commented, “There are no missing funds.”

Previously, in a Feb. 19 email to three recreation council board members obtained by La Jolla Village News, Greatrex said, “... I realize that I must do the only thing and repay the coffers. My intentions were good in my desire to get us a new playground … But I must remedy what I did. … It will take me some time, as none of this happened overnight. It was a long process of work and will take me time to remedy in full. But obviously, I am good for it.”

In a follow-up email on April 20, concerning the recreation center playground fund, Greatrex commented, “There was money spent on finding grants as we needed help on getting grants won successfully. There is a lot of competition out there — literally thousands of grants for recreation centers available on a local, county, state, federal and foundation level and high-hundreds (that) we have applied to, but it is difficult to win them.”

La Jolla's status as an affluent community complicates its chances for getting grants for needed projects, Greatrex said.

“We (La Jolla Rec. Center) are in a high-income village with a known name (implying wealth) and while we do offer classes at low rates to students around the county … it is still hard to win grants when we are known as a wealthy town,” she said. “Grantors are more likely to give to areas when there are lower-income levels per capita.”

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