Ex-Orange Co., Calif., treasurer pleads guilty


SANTA ANA, Calif. -- Former Orange County Treasurer-Tax Collector Robert L. Citron pleaded guilty yesterday to six felony counts of misappropriating public funds, falsifying documents and misleading both investors in county bonds and the government agencies that put their money in his ill-fated investment fund.

Citron, 70, faces a maximum of 14 years in prison.

The plea followed weeks of negotiations between Citron's attorney and the county district attorney's office. It completes a dizzying fall for the reclusive money manager, who had been re-elected handily just 11 months ago to the job he had held since 1970.

Citron resigned from office Dec. 4, two days before the county filed for bankruptcy protection in federal court, precipitating the worst local government financial meltdown in American history. The fund Citron managed for nearly 200 schools, cities, special districts and other public entities lost nearly $2 billion.

Citron entered his guilty plea in Orange County Superior Court before Judge David O. Carter. When Judge Carter asked the former treasurer whether he had enough time to study his plea agreement with prosecutors, Citron responded in a quavering voice, "More than enough time, sir."

After the hearing, he was taken in handcuffs to the county jail, where he was booked and then released on his own recognizance. Citron was ordered to come up with $25,000 bail by May 19. He will remain free under the terms of the agreement he signed, so long as he cooperates with the district attorney's investigators.

As part of the agreement, Citron asked that the sentencing be held in a court outside Orange County, a condition that prosecutors say they will not oppose.

District Attorney Michael R. Capizzi said Citron was being offered nothing in return for his guilty plea. Mr. Capizzi characterized Citron's action as "throwing himself at the mercy of the court."

The former treasurer pleaded guilty to six felony counts. Two involve making untrue "material" statements in connection with the sale of securities, a violation of the state corporations code. Four counts involve violations of the penal code dealing with misappropriation of public funds, failure to transfer public funds and maintaining false entries in a public record.

Mr. Capizzi said investigators "have not found any evidence of personal gain by Mr. Citron."

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