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Orange County

Plea Entered in Trash Fraud Case

March 12, 2003|Christine Hanley | Times Staff Writer

A trash-hauling executive accused of defrauding the city of Orange of $4 million pleaded not guilty Tuesday in a case that has been slowly winding through the courts.

Jeffrey Hambarian, whose family's business had been Orange's exclusive trash hauler for 43 years, was charged in 1998 with 65 felony counts that include grand theft, commercial bribery, perjury and money laundering. Hambarian entered his plea during arraignment in Orange County Superior Court in Santa Ana.

Hambarian's attorneys had sought to recuse the Orange County district attorney's office, alleging a conflict of interest and that the agency is financing the prosecution with funds from the victims. The state Supreme Court, however, rejected that argument in a 6-1 ruling last year, allowing the case to proceed.

Fearing the death of a key witness before the trial, prosecutors have tried to speed the case along. That witness, Downey resident Pat Augimeri, is 90 years old.

Prosecutors allege he cashed $2.4 million worth of checks for Hambarian. His testimony has been recorded in a rare, court-ordered procedure known as conditional examination.

Hambarian is due back in court in two weeks.

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