Former Beaumont Officials Pleads Guilty in Corruption Case
Public Works Director Deepak Moorjani and Chief of Police Frank Coe Plead Guilty
Deepak Moorjani, one of seven former Beaumont officials charged in a wide-ranging corruption case that includes charges of embezzlement and misappropriation of $43 million in public funds, plead guilty Friday afternoon, Oct. 20, to a single felony count of conflict of interest.
Moorjani’s plea follows one Wednesday, Oct. 18, by former Beaumont Police Chief Francis Dennis “Frank” Coe, who plead guilty to a misdemeanor conspiracy count.
Moorjani, once the city’s planning director who oversaw the public works department, made a late-afternoon appearance before Judge Mac Fisher. As part of the sentence, he agreed to make $3 million in restitution and serve three years’ probation.
“The greatest damage that Mr. Moorjani has caused is the erosion of public trust,” Beaumont Mayor Lloyd White said, speaking to the judge Moorjani’s attorney, Mark Werksman, said outside court that his client had taken responsibility and decided to make the plea and pay a “substantial amount of restitution … he wants to move on with his life, to resolve these charges so he could achieve a measure of peace,” and make restitution to the damaged parties, Werksman said.
White said Beaumont was “a victim of the serious crimes committed by Mr. Moorjani. Our community is suffering obvious financial hardships directly related to his actions … Regaining the public’s trust will take years of hard work and effort.”
He said Moorjani’s Friday plea “is a step forward in healing our community and the other agencies that have been impacted by Mr. Moorjani’s illegal, immoral and unethical actions.”
In a document filed with his plea, Moorjani, a 71-year-old Yorba Linda resident, outlined his role in personally profiting from actions he took as the planning director, including “millions” in transportation infrastructure funds diverted to a company he owned with two other Beaumont officials, though he pointed to other defendants as the ones who decided to divert the funds.
On Wednesday, Coe was sentenced to three years’ probation and 200 hours of community service. Court documents stated that he was ordered to report to custody for four days, but he had received credit for time served after his arrest on the original charges, District Attorney spokesman John Hall said.
Dismissed were two misappropriation counts against alleging Coe took interest-free illegal city loans amounting to $50,000. He has repaid the loan amount, but owes interest for the time he had the money, prosecutors said.
Six counts of misappropriation of funds against Moorjani were dismissed Friday, ending the case for him.
Moorjani and five other defendants — former city manager, Alan Kapanicas; former city attorney, Joseph Aklufi; former finance director, William K. Aylward; former planning director, Ernest A. Egger; and former economic development director, David W. Dillon — had been accused of taking part in a two-decades long scheme in which they allegedly enriched themselves by illicitly diverting money from various city sources to companies they had formed that did business with the city.
That included Urban Logic Consultants, whose principals at the time of the alleged offenses were Egger, Dillon, and Moorjani — at the same time they were also Beaumont city officials.
District attorney investigators allege that at least $43.2 million was diverted to Urban Logic Consultants between 1994 and 2012. [THAT’S ONLY TUMF]
It was Moorjani, acting as public works director, who signed off on payments to Urban Logic from bond construction funds for engineering work, city records show.
Moorjani said in his factual basis statement submitted Friday that he had participated in making a bond contract in Beaumont areas by providing engineering services through his employment at Urban Logic.
“I had a personal financial interest in this bond because it generated funds … that were used, among other things, to pay ULC for planning and engineering and public works oversight, which funds, in turn were used to pay my salary as a consultant employed by ULC.”
Nearly $37 million of the funds that were allegedly diverted came from Transportation Uniform Mitigation Fees, which the city was supposed to pool with other local governments through the Western Riverside Council of Governments for county transportation projects, prosecutors have said.
The Western Riverside Council of Governments had sued Urban Logic Consultants, Moorjani, Dillon, and Egger to recover the allegedly misdirected Transportation Uniform Mitigation Fees. Moorjani, Dillon and Egger are no longer associated with Urban Logistics.
“Between July 2003 and June 2009, ULC received millions of dollars in fees for its work in managing the city from public funds that were collected from developers in the City as Transportation Uniform Mitigation Fees,” Moorjani said in his Friday statement. “These TUMF funds should have been remitted to the Western Riverside Council of Governments,” he admitted.
While Moorjani said he did not make the decision to have Beaumont withhold or divert the TUMF funds from WRCOG, “I did personally profit from such diversion.
“The decision to withhold or diver TUMF funds from WRCOG was made by others,” he said, naming former co-defendants Kapanicas, Aklufi, Aylward, Dillon, and Egger.
Attorney Jeffrey Dunn, representing WRCOG in the lawsuit, said the $3 million in restitution will ultimately make its way to the joint power authority.
“The lawsuit against Mr. Moorjani is now resolved,” Dunn said Friday evening. He said a settlement agreement had been signed with Moorjani on Friday.
All of the five remaining criminal case defendants have maintained their pleas of not guilty in the case, originally filed in May 2016. A preliminary hearing is set for Feb. 22, 2018.
White thanked the Riverside County District Attorney’s office, which investigated the case, and said Beaumont “will fully participate in the ongoing efforts to bring the other responsible parties to justice as well.”