Because an Orange County federal judge sealed key court records, it's a mystery what punishment–if any–a Southern California criminal received after plotting with a government bureaucrat to swindle hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars in bogus unemployment-insurance payments.
But Narciso (a.k.a. Tony) Rodriguez couldn't obey U.S. District Court Judge David O. Carter's probation orders to refrain from abusing illegal substances, so the thief is now serving a four-month prison sentence for that offense.
Carter was willing, however, to allow the public to know about the consequences of public corruption for the insider in the scheme: David Paul Holden, a 32-year-old Eagle Scout, used his Anaheim job at the state's Employment Development Department (EDD) to accept more than $40,000 in bribes during a 2010-2011 plot that stole more than $510,000 from California's treasury.
The onetime owner of The Pizza Factory in Corona, Holden–who received kickbacks from the recipients of the undeserved unemployment payments–is serving a 76-month term inside the federal prison at Lompoc in central California.
(He blames family stress and financial woes for his crimes.)
Patricia Cordova, another thief convicted in the case, faces sentencing on Feb. 24 inside Orange County's Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse.
The U.S. Probation Office has recommended Cordova, who has a history of drug offenses, receive a punishment of 52 months in prison, but Assistant United States Attorney Joshua M. Robbins is asking Carter to issue a 70-month term.
"[Cordova] was an important player in the conspiracy, recruiting participants to pay kickbacks in return for the unlawful payments of public funds, and passing on those kickbacks to the central figure in the scheme," Robbins told the judge. "Just as seriously, the defendant attempted to induce a co-conspirator to lie to authorities investigating the offense, including by making explicit threats against that co-conspirator."
According to her taxpayer-funded defense lawyer, Cordova is hoping to avoid a prison cell and instead be assigned to a federal drug treatment facility.
EDD employees are responsible for honestly reviewing, processing and approving claims by California residents for unemployment insurance benefits.