Ricardo Nieva Admits to Stealing $2 Million While Pegasus School Business Manager: Feds

I guess when you send your kid to a fancy elementary school like The Pegasus School in Huntington Beach, you expect the guy handling the money to be fancy too.

So no one apparently batted an eye over Ricardo Nieva having a golf club membership and Angels season tickets, sending his own kids to private schools and donations to J. Serra Catholic High School's sports programs and taking family vacations to Las Vegas, Jackson Hole in Wyoming, Charleston, South Carolina, Hawaii and Europe.

But the school's former business manager, who'd previously pleaded not guilty to embezzling more than $2 million from Pegasus, now admits to the crime, according to federal prosecutors.

The U.S. Attorney's office in Los Angeles last week filed a plea agreement in U.S. District Court Judge Dean Pregerson's LA courtroom that indicates Nieva, 49, of Trabuco Canyon, will cop to two counts of wire fraud later this month.

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Nieva joined The Pegasus School in 1995 and, according to the government, pulled off the fraud scheme from late 2006 through May 2013. He left the position in September 2013. He was supposed to only draw money from school accounts to pay for school expenses, but he allegedly cashed 256 Pegasus School checks payable to himself, to the tune of $2,093,667.84.

According to the plea agreement, Nieva spent the money not only on the stuff mentioned up top but: an Arizona timeshare; mortgage payments; home improvement projects; restaurant dining and retail shopping; summer and sports camps for his two children; and college savings accounts.

The maximum penalty is 40 years in prison for guilt on two counts of wire fraud, but the plea agreement proposes 41 to 51 months behind bars and full restitution, something Nieva's defense attorney says his client intends to repay.

"He accepted responsibility immediately," Michael Molfetta told City News Service. "He went in and met with the authorities and right away contacted the school to let them know he's going to pay them back. He never shied away from accepting responsibility for what he did, and he won't now."

Email: mcoker@ocweekly.com. Twitter: @MatthewTCoker. Follow OC Weekly on Twitter @ocweekly or on Facebook!

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