UPDATE: The District Attorney’s Office is charging former MACSA CEO Olivia Soza-Mendiola and CFO Benjamin Tan with grand theft for illegally diverting more than $1 million that should have gone to employee retirement accounts. Check back later in the day for a story about the charges.—Editor
After months of delays, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office plans to hold a press conference at 11am Thursday unveiling its findings from the investigation into the Mexican American Community Services Agency (MACSA).
In the summer of 2009, former DA Dolores Carr received a report from then-Superintendent Charles Weis stating that MACSA, a nonprofit organization, stole $400,000 from employee pension funds from two of the schools it operated. The money was allegedly diverted in order to keep the schools from running out of money.
In January 2011, MACSA amended a civil lawsuit it filed to include former Chief Executive Officer Olivia Soza Mendiola and Chief Financial Officer Benjamin F. Tan, in addition to accountant Joe Clovis. The amendment said many more company officials could be added in the future, One person who has avoided charges thus far—to the chagrin of some MACSA workers who lost their pensions—is San Jose Councilmember Xavier Campos, who worked as the organization’s Chief Operations Officer during the time of the money-skim.
Campos has offered few public comments regarding MACSA since the pension theft was discovered, but he has denied any knowledge of illegal activity. That claim was challenged in a story San Jose Inside ran in October 2010 about Xavier Campos’ work for MACSA:
“On Sept. 15, the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce released a nine-page document which seems to show that Campos was more involved in MACSA’s financial decisions than he has admitted. According to documents obtained by outside auditors Fiscal Crisis & Management Assistance Team, Campos was the only officer at MACSA with a direct line of oversight regarding the school’s operations. Furthermore, documents show that he was a member of the MACSA financial committee, and directly handled the sale of a MACSA-owned property to solve the school’s ‘cash flow problem’ in 2008.
The audit openly challenges ‘the truthfulness of [Campos’] statements,’ and concludes that he knew—or should have known—about the decision to drain the retirement account.
Campos has refused to address the audit, other than to paint it as an unfounded attack. And he has steadfastly continued to insist—in the face of evidence to the contrary—that his involvement with MACSA was limited to working with kids in its gang-intervention program.”
District Attorney Jeff Rosen and John Chase, a deputy DA in the Public Integrity Unit, will speak about the investigation Thursday.
Chase has been in charge of the MACSA investigation since January 2011, when he took over the Public Integrity Unit, which was previously called the Government Integrity Unit. The name change, Chase said, was designed to allow cases to cover a broader scope.
The usual Public Integrity Unit case focuses on crimes committed by government officials and nonprofit organizations that misuse funds. Chase previously oversaw Councilmember Ash Kalra’s DUI case as well as a case involving two San Jose police officers who embezzled money from the National Latino Peace Officers Association.