An evangelical minister and former Pasadena Public Works Department analyst, along with an Altadena-based electrical contractor, were convicted Tuesday in connection with their roles in the theft of $6.4 million from the city in a decade-long embezzlement scheme.
After three days of deliberations, a jury found former city employee Danny Wooten guilty on 53 counts, including embezzlement, conflict of interest and misappropriation of public funds. Co-defendant Tyrone Collins was found guilty of 20 counts, including embezzlement and misappropriation of public funds.
Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 11. Wooten could be sentenced to 24 years in state prison, while Collins faces up to 15 years behind bars. Both men are currently being held without bail.
“The city of Pasadena appreciates the work of the District Attorney’s Office in bringing an embezzler of public money to justice,” said Mayor Terry Tornek. “Danny Wooten, the lone city employee involved in a scheme which embezzled $6.4 million from the taxpayers, has now been convicted and will likely serve jail time for this crime. Thankfully, Pasadena’s citizens were made whole by insurance proceeds which covered the loss with a cash payment to the city. There have been significant changes in strengthening internal financial controls so that this cannot happen again.”
Wooten was a management analyst in the city’s Public Works Department, which was in charge of placing all of the city’s utility lines underground.
According to an audit of the city’s Underground Utilities Program, UUP, Wooten would submit invoices for small amounts to administrators with the PWD for approval, but city employees did not maintain the proper chain of custody after signing the invoices.
Instead of taking custody of the invoices, they allowed Wooten to keep them. With the required signatures already in place, Wooten would then allegedly add new pages to the invoices, claim different work had been performed, and place extra digits in front of the first number, increasing the dollar amounts on the documents.
Wooten also created bank accounts purporting to represent two churches. However, he was the only person on the account, said Deputy District Attorney Bjorn Dodd.
Local residents were preparing for Tournament of Roses festivities in 2014 when the scheme was discovered and Wooten, Collins and a former city temporary employee Melody Jenkins were arrested. Charges against Jenkins were later dropped due a lack of evidence.
City Manager Michael Beck fired Finance Director Andrew Green and Public Works Director Siobahn Foster in the wake of the scandal. However, many local residents blamed Beck and called for his removal. Beck left the city for a job at UCLA in 2016.