Thursday, September 19, 2002
Superior Court Clerks Under Probe in Sale of False Insurance Papers
By LORELEI LAIRD, Staff Writer
Two Los Angeles Superior Court traffic clerks are under investigation for fraud, it was reported yesterday.
The Pasadena Star-News reported that window clerk John Martinez and traffic clerk Conrado Sarreal of the Pasadena courthouse are being investigated for allegedly selling false insurance papers to people who were caught driving without insurance. In the course of a “sting” investigation, the Star-News reported, Martinez was caught by Sheriff’s Department investigators with a large sum of money on Sept. 6; Sarreal was implicated during the investigation of Martinez.
Assistant District Chief Jim Owen of the Pasadena court told the newspaper the sheriff’s department somehow found out that Sarreal was directing toward Martinez motorists who had come to court with citations for driving without insurance. Martinez would then “probably” sell the motorists false proof of insurance, or collect more money from them than he reported, Owen said to the Star-News. The newspaper did not report how much money was allegedly stolen by the pair, nor could court employees or investigators confirm an amount.
Martinez has since been laid off because of the court’s budget crunch, and Sarreal has been put on administrative leave, a spokesman for the Superior Court said.
No charges have yet been made in the case, which is under investigation by the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department.
“I can’t believe court employees would do something like this and think they could get away with it,” Owen told the Star-News. “We’ve all got to drive around out there, and if it turns out these [employees] were issuing fraudulent proofs of insurance, that’s bad.”
Several employees at the Pasadena courthouse declined to comment on the case. Sgt. Sam Silver of the sheriff’s department, the investigator on the case, did not return a call yesterday afternoon.
“It’s an ongoing criminal and personnel investigation and I can’t comment,” Supervising Judge Mary Thornton House of the Northeast District said yesterday. “We want to preserve the integrity of the investigation.”
A Superior Court spokesman said there is no record of previous problems with these two employees, but the court has had problems with other employees abusing their positions.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company