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Tuesday, November 20 , 2018, 9:07 pm | Fair 51º


Former County Fire Employee Accused of Stealing Union Funds

A former Santa Barbara County Fire Department employee has been arrested on charges of grand theft and filing false tax returns, crimes he allegedly committed during his time as an administrator for his union.

Robert Perez
Robert Perez

Robert Perez was arrested Friday after a four-month investigation by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department, spokeswoman Kelly Hoover said.

Perez, who is retired from the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, is charged with grand theft and filing false tax returns, and voluntarily turned himself into the Sheriff's Department at 10 a.m. and was subsequently arrested and booked into the Santa Barbara County Jail.

The alleged misappropriation of funds and tax evasion occurred during the time Perez held the position of insurance administrator with the Santa Barbara County Firefighters Local 2046

The union notified the Sheriff’s Department regarding the alleged criminal activity in March, which prompted an investigation by the Sheriff’s Department's Criminal Investigations Division, Hoover said.

The complaint against Perez alleges that the grand theft occurred between March 1, 2006, and Feb. 12, 2012, and the amount stolen was larger than $100,000.

Noozhawk first learned of the investigation in April of this year.

Fire Chief Michael Dyer told Noozhawk that Perez was approached with the allegations before submitting his retirement papers recently, which prevented him from being investigated internally.

Adam Estabrook, president of Local 2046, issued a statement then that said the group had discovered the discrepancies while conducting an audit of its insurance programs.

Inconsistencies were found in the account managed by the union’s insurance director, and he was removed from the position, Estabrook said. The group also notified law enforcement.

“The monies and programs associated with this account are run by the union and are 100 percent voluntary for its members," Estabrook said said. "This account is in no way associated with taxpayer money or the responsibility of the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.”

Perez is being held in the Santa Barbara County Jail on $110,000 bail, and the case has been handed over to the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office.

A short statement from county fire also went out Friday, responding to announcement of Perez's arrest.

"The Santa Barbara County Fire Department respects the judicial process with regard to the arrest," the statement said.

Perez is scheduled to be arraigned in Santa Barbara Superior Court on Tuesday.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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