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3rd Man Accused in Insurance Dept. Scandal

Crime: Businessman, who led a foundation created by Chuck Quackenbush, faces eight criminal charges, including theft of funds.

April 03, 2002|VIRGINIA ELLIS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SACRAMENTO — A businessman who as a favor to a friend joined a charitable foundation created by former Insurance Commissioner Chuck Quackenbush has been charged with eight felonies, including the theft of $18,000 in foundation funds.

State Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer filed charges last week against Ronald Leo Weekley, the former president of the California Research and Assistance Fund, accusing him of grand theft, perjury, receiving stolen property and preparing false documents.

Weekley, 49, of Venice, is scheduled to enter a plea to the charges in Sacramento Superior Court on April 11. He could not be reached for comment, and Lockyer's office said it has received no notification that he is being represented by an attorney.

Weekley is the third person to face criminal charges in connection with the scandal that erupted around Quackenbush after he reached secret agreements with insurance companies that allowed them to donate millions of dollars to his foundation instead of paying fines for mishandling claims from the 1994 Northridge earthquake.

Quackenbush resigned in the summer of 2000 rather than face impeachment and has since moved to Hawaii.

A spokeswoman for Lockyer said the attorney general's investigation is ongoing.

"In addition to the criminal complaint," Sandy Michioku said, "we are pursuing court action to void the insurance company settlements stemming from the mishandling of claims in the Northridge earthquake."

Also charged in the investigation was George Grays, a former deputy insurance commissioner, who pleaded guilty in federal court to mail fraud and money laundering. Another defendant, Brian K. Thompson, a former football coach who operated a camp for troubled children, is awaiting trial on federal fraud and conspiracy charges.

Complaints That Only Lesser Players Charged

Even so, the investigation has been criticized by lawmakers and consumer groups who complain that only the lesser players in the scandal have had to answer to criminal charges.

"The sad part is that while the fall guys fell, we don't feel that justice has truly been served," said Douglas Heller of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, a watchdog group. "There was too much wrong in the Quackenbush administration to allow the guy in charge to still be sitting on a beach in Hawaii."

All three defendants have been accused of mishandling the funds of CRAF, a foundation created under a state law that required it to be operated by an independent board for charitable purposes. But evidence gathered by the Assembly Insurance Committee during an investigation of Quackenbush showed that the foundation was actually run by Grays, who used its assets to distribute money to his friends and buy television advertising designed to enhance Quackenbush's political career.

Weekley, as a favor to his friend Grays, served first as the foundation's treasurer and later as its president.

Lockyer's complaint says that Weekley, as an officer of the foundation, approved an $18,000 payment to Community Connections, a consulting business that was "created and owned by the defendant."

The complaint accuses Weekley of lying about the payment on a state financial disclosure statement claiming Community Connections had earned less than $250 in 1999 when in fact it had received $18,000 that year from the foundation.

The complaint says Weekley later created a false invoice and work plan to justify the payment.

Weekley is also charged with the grand theft of a state computer, which officials said they discovered when they served a search warrant at his apartment in Venice.

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