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College Fraud Charges Disputed

Judge is asked to dismiss the case against three Riverside Community College officials who are alleged to have taken more than $1 million.

June 14, 2003|Lance Pugmire | Times Staff Writer

Attorneys representing three Riverside Community College administrators charged with defrauding the college's public safety department out of more than $1 million asked a Riverside County judge to dismiss the case Friday, saying no crime was committed.

The Riverside college administrators -- William O'Rafferty, associate vice president of academic affairs, Steven Bailey, dean of public safety, and Robert Curtin, associate dean of public safety -- were booked Friday on 10 felony charges of fraud, embezzlement, grand theft and misappropriation of public funds. All are former Riverside County sheriff's deputies.

Prosecutors allege they set up a consulting firm that siphoned away state funding for Riverside Community College's programs at the California Highway Patrol Academy in Sacramento and the Riverside County Sheriff's Department's police academy. The Riverside college provides the courses at both training centers.

Defense attorney Paul Grech said his clients did nothing wrong, and that their consulting firm collected the money through legal contracts between the Riverside college and a community college in Blythe.

Riverside County prosecutor Bill Mitchell said the motion to dismiss the case should be denied.

Prosecutors allege O'Rafferty, Bailey and Curtin concocted a scheme to pad enrollment figures at Palo Verde Community College in Blythe and defraud their own college in Riverside.

Officials say they substituted the Blythe institution on official records as the provider of the courses for both the CHP and Riverside County sheriff's academies and counted those course enrollments on Palo Verde's records.

The Palo Verde college was given credit for teaching nearly 4,000 students who were, in fact, taking public safety courses provided by Riverside Community College, prosecutors allege. They say that because the community colleges receive a per-student allotment from the state, the Palo Verde college received additional state money because of the fraudulent enrollment figures.

The three allegedly arranged the deal with Palo Verde Assistant Supt. Al Stremble. In return, the Palo Verde college sent $1,029,532 -- a portion of the additional state funding Palo Verde collected -- to the trio's consulting firm, prosecutors said.

Grech and fellow defense attorney Andrew Roth said their clients were "asked to engage in this business arrangement," by the Palo Verde administrator and believed it was legal.

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