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Ortiz Ordered False Bills, Documents Say : Registrar Demanded Payments to Friend From Company, Court Papers Allege

August 20, 1986|DANIEL M. WEINTRAUB | Times Staff Writer

Registrar of Voters Ray Ortiz ordered a company doing business with his office to make payments to a friend and then arranged for the company to recover the money by sending falsified bills to the county, court documents unsealed Tuesday allege.

In one case, a check from the company to his friend, a Chula Vista businesswoman, was endorsed by Ortiz, then deposited into his own bank account, the court papers allege.

The papers also state that the district attorney's investigator assigned to the case believes that Ortiz, through his position as registrar of voters, "has systematically, through misleading information, collusion on bids, and favoritism," directed contracts to another company, Election Data Corp., an Escondido firm that has done more than $300,000 in business with the county since 1984.

The papers, filed in support of search warrants obtained in the district attorney's investigation of Ortiz, provide the first details of the case against the registrar, who is on a voluntary leave of absence pending the outcome of the probe.

Ortiz said at a news conference Monday evening at his attorney's office that he will decide today whether to quit his job with the county or return to work immediately.

"I don't think honestly I could go back and work under these conditions," Ortiz said.

The information in the more than 100 pages of documents was gleaned during the first 11 weeks of the investigation, which began May 9 and involved the cultivation of two anonymous sources within Ortiz's office and three weeks of surveillance of Ortiz.

"I am not guilty of anything outlined (in the affidavit)," Ortiz said at the news conference. "A lot of that is an obviously disgruntled person trying to accuse me of things they have very little information on. Without the rest of the information, they've gone hog wild."

The documents allege that, since 1984, Ortiz has solicited four payments totaling more than $9,000 from Jeffries Banknote of Los Angeles, the company that has printed the sample ballots mailed to county voters before each election since 1983. The company's contracts totaled more than $800,000.

Three of the payments, totaling $8,425, went to Maria Caldera--a Chula Vista businesswoman, longtime friend of Ortiz and at times an employee in the registrar's office, the filing alleges. The other payment from Jeffries was a $1,000 check to Lance Gough, a computer consultant who has done work for the county.

Ortiz allegedly arranged for Jeffries to recover the money paid to Caldera and Gough by billing the county for miscellaneous expenses associated with the firm's printing contract.

According to the affidavit, filed July 30 by district attorney's investigator Carlos Rebelez, Gough used $800 of the $1,000 he received from Jeffries to pay for hotel rooms and meals for five of Ortiz's employees who attended a Chicago meeting sponsored by Jeffries in March. The employees attended the meeting on their own time, and their air fare was paid by Jeffries, Ortiz has said.

One of the three checks sent to Caldera, for $1,275, was endorsed in her name and then in Ortiz's name, and deposited in his account at the San Diego County employees' credit union in June, 1984, according to the court documents. Caldera told investigators she had never signed over a check to Ortiz.

Lynn Kienle, a Jeffries vice president who handled the San Diego County account, said he made the payments to Gough and Caldera at the direction of Ortiz, Rebelez wrote in his affidavit. Kienle told Rebelez that Ortiz said the pair did quality control work in connection with the sample ballots printed for San Diego County by Jeffries.

According to the documents, Caldera said she did quality control work on the sample ballots only once--in 1984. She told Rebelez she worked for Jeffries one other time, in July, when Ortiz called her and said the firm wanted her to serve as its representative at a conference for registrars that Ortiz held at a Mission Valley hotel.

Caldera told the investigator that she received a check for $4,000 from Jeffries for the conference. She said she deposited $1,500 of the $4,000 in her bank account as payment for her services as hostess. The rest she received in $100 bills. She said she spent $1,000 on gifts for the conference participants. The documents did not say what Caldera did with the remaining $1,500.

The affidavit provides no other evidence that Ortiz personally received any of the money from Jeffries' Banknote. However, the affidavit notes that on June 20 Ortiz paid $1,600 in cash, in $100 bills, as the final payment for a car he had bought earlier in the month. June 20 was the same day that Caldera cashed the $4,000 check.

Caldera told Rebelez that she signed an invoice for the $4,000, stating that the money from Jeffries--which was later to be billed to the county--was for work done on sample ballot quality control or ballot preparation--she didn't remember which.

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