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Judge Issues Stay on Former DWP Worker’s Case

A judge issued a stay today until next April 7 of civil case proceedings involving a former Department of Water and Power audio- visual technician who was among a group of people sued by the City Attorney’s Office for allegedly misappropriating more than $4 million in public funds.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Daniel Murphy said the civil case can move forward sooner if criminal proceedings against Thatcus Carl “T.C.” Richard are resolved before the stay expires. Richard’s attorney, James Bryant, had asked that the civil case be put on hold indefinitely until the criminal case was over, citing the possibility his client may have to testify in a deposition and risk the possibility his statements could be used against him by prosecutors.

However, Murphy said the criminal case was filed in 2015 and that he was concerned that no trial date is set. The judge also said he did not want to put an unlimited stay on the civil case.

Murphy denied a request by Richard’s co-defendants that the civil case also be put on hold as to them, noting that none of the others have been criminally charged.

Richard, 65, was charged in June 2015 with 27 felony counts, including misappropriation of public funds, embezzlement and contract fraud. Bryant said Richard is free on bail.

The lawsuit, filed May 25, alleges Richard and his company, Top of the Line Communications Inc., helped direct small contracts for audio-visual work to firms owned by friends. Those companies in return allegedly subcontracted with a firm owned by Richard, paying him more than $1 million.

About 146 separate contracts with a total value of more than $4.4 million were awarded to Richard and the other defendants as part of the illegal scheme between 1992 and 2014 according to the lawsuit.

“Over a course of 22 years, Richard, with the assistance of the other defendants, orchestrated a bid-rigging scheme whereby Richard steered contracts to various sham companies set up by (Richard’s) accomplices,” the suit alleges.

The suit’s allegations include fraud, conspiracy to defraud and violations of the state’s False Claims Act. The complaint seeks both compensatory and punitive damages as well as up to $11,000 for each alleged violation of the False Claims Act.

The alleged bid-rigging scheme was conducted by Richard and the others in a “secret and deceptive manner such that the city was unable to make earlier discovery of the scheme despite use of reasonable diligence,” the suit states.

The city first suspected the alleged wrongdoing in October 2013 during a probe by city investigators into a tip that Richard was using stolen city audio-visual equipment for personal use, according to the lawsuit.

The investigators combed through years of invoices, bidding records and other city documents and “painstakingly pieced together the full scope of the bid-rigging scheme by Richard and the other defendants,” according to the lawsuit.

 

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