Lies about loan may be behind this Beaumont councilman’s indictment
Mark Orozco appeared to be in a strong position to challenge incumbent Marion Ashley for a seat on the Riverside County Board of Supervisors in summer 2013.
The election was still a year away, but Orozco, a member of the Beaumont City Council, disclosed on a required state campaign finance disclosure form that he already had $106,821 in campaign funds.
Yet if charges recently filed by the Riverside County district attorney’s office are true, that image of financial strength was an illusion.
An indictment filed by the District Attorney’s Office on May 11 accuses Orozco, 40, of nine felony counts of perjury for falsely and repeatedly listing a loan on the campaign finance disclosures forms he filed for the 2014 supervisorial race.
Orozco’s campaign disclosure forms show only two loans related to his failed bid to become a county supervisor. And only one loan — $50,000 from himself — appears on all nine disclosure forms filed between 2013 and this year, mirroring the loan described in the indictment.
District attorney spokesman John Hall said the office could not provide clarification.
“The transcripts are still sealed so the grand jury hearing is still confidential, therefore, we can’t comment on any facts of the case at this time,” he wrote in an email Monday, May 22.
If the $50,000 loan was indeed a fake, Orozco’s campaign for supervisor never had the financial muscle it claimed.
Orozco also is accused of one count of bribery, which allegedly occurred Jan. 13, 2016, a little more than a year into his four-year term on the Beaumont City Council, according to the indictment filed in Riverside County Superior Court.
Orozco could not be reached for comment.
On Friday, May 19, his attorney, David Greenberg, said that he can’t comment on the specific charges until he sees the grand jury transcript.
“It is all secretive and I don’t know what kind of evidence they produced,” Greenberg said.
Greenberg said in a May 13 email that Orozco “is deeply committed to his community, and is a good man. We intend to fight hard to prove his innocence in a Court of Law.”
The act of lying on a state campaign financial form is a crime because the candidate must certify under the penalty of perjury that the information “is true and correct.”
Former Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco said reporting a fake loan would give the public and potential political supporters the false impression that the candidate is in a stronger financial position than is really the case.
“If you have less money, you are more likely to get less support,” Pacheco said.
Many people want to donate to the campaign that they think will win, he said.
The other problem is that candidates may use cash donations to their campaigns to later reimburse the loans they had provided to the campaign.
“If you are paying back on a loan you never gave, you are just putting money into your pocket,” Pacheco said.
Orozco has been active in Inland politics for nearly a decade.
In 2008, he was elected to the Beaumont School Board, where he served for four years.
In 2012, instead of seeking re-election to the school board, he ran as Democrat for the state’s redrawn 42nd Assembly District, but he lost to Republican incumbent Brian Nestande, and had to forfeit his school board seat.
A year later, he set his sights on Ashley’s seat. Since Orozco and Ashley were the only candidates, the race was decided during the June 2014 primary, which Ashley easily won.
Orozco’s now disputed campaign finance forms say he raised $23,321 in cash donations and $3,500 in nonmonetary contributions between Jan. 1 and June 30, 2013.
But most of his campaign money came from two loans: $50,000 he said he provided to the campaign on May 6, 2013, and $30,000 that retired teacher Margie Flores of Rowland Heights reportedly provided May 30, 2013, the forms say.
These loans brought his war chest up to $106,821 — about a year ahead of the election.
The $50,000 loan he included on campaign forms is listed as coming just months after Orozco and his wife, both teachers, faced serious financial problems.
In October 2012, they were $11,857.11 behind on mortgage payments, and their home in Beaumont went into foreclosure proceedings, property records show. At one point, a trustee’s sale was announced, but in March 2013, the mortgage default was rescinded, property records show.
Separately, Orozco then ran for Beaumont City Council, winning the seat he now has in November 2014.
Even though the supervisor’s race was decided in June 2014, Orozco kept his campaign committee alive and thus had to file required disclosure forms, called Form 460s, every six months.
At the end of 2014, Orozco’s campaign reimbursed Flores her $30,000, according to the disclosure forms.
During the first six months of 2015, the campaign committee reimbursed him a $14,668 portion of the stated loan. He was reimbursed another $250 later in 2015, the forms say.
Orozco’s most recent disclosure form, filed March 16, says his committee for the county supervisor’s race still owes him $34,781 from the $50,000 loan.
Pacheco said it is not difficult for prosecutors to verify whether or not a political candidate makes a loan to his or her campaign committee. It is just a matter of having probable cause and then getting subpoenas to see bank records to determine whether the money transfers actually occurred.
An active political career:
2008: Mark A. Orozco is elected to Beaumont school board.
2012: Orozco runs as a Democrat for the state’s 42nd Assembly District but loses to Republican incumbent Brian Nestande and he relinquishes his school board seat.
2013: Orozco starts his campaign for Riverside County Supervisors and states on his campaign finance disclosure form that he loaned $50,000 to his campaign.
June 2014: Orozco loses the supervisor’s race to incumbent Marion Ashley.
November 2014: Orozco is elected to the Beaumont City Council.
May 11, 2017: Orozco is indicted for one count of bribery and nine counts of perjury for falsely stating a loan on campaign finance disclosure forms for his failed bid to become a county supervisor.