Accountant Fired Over Missing Money at CSULB

Times Staff Writer

An accountant for California State University, Long Beach, has been fired following his arrest last month on suspicion of embezzling an unspecified amount of money from business office trust accounts, school officials said last week.

Juan Vargas, former manager of trust accounting and a university employee since 1979, was arrested on Feb. 28 after officials discovered a missing sum that University Relations Director Eugene Asher would only describe as significant but "not huge."

The campus newspaper Daily Forty-Niner reported that the amount was about $14,000, but Asher declined to comment on that report.

June Cooper, vice president of faculty and staff, said Vargas "has admitted to taking the money" and is working with the university to make restitution. He was fired last week.

Deputy Dist. Atty. John W. Bax said he still hasn't decided whether to file formal charges.

Case Submitted

"A case has been submitted to me for review, I'm still reviewing it," Bax said. "I want all the facts in front of me before I make a decision and I don't think I have all the facts." The prosecutor declined to elaborate beyond adding that he expects to reach a decision on the case within the next two weeks.

Vargas fell under suspicion after Joanne Hutton became acting business manager in August and ordered a routine audit of department programs, Asher said. Apart from handling millions of dollars in state tax money used to finance general university operations, the business office also oversees several hundred thousand dollars worth of special grant and research trust accounts, which Vargas managed.

"Some irregularities turned up and they could not be explained," Asher said. "It was clear to us that funds were missing."

Vargas was "confronted" with the audit findings, Asher said, shortly before being arrested by campus police and taken to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department station in Lakewood, where he later posted bail and was released.

Vargas could not be reached for comment last week.

Asher said, "We are still looking into the matter to see if we have the full extent of what was missing, and he has meanwhile been dismissed by the university." Asher said the incident marked the first time in his 10 years as a Cal State Long Beach administrator that any employee has been accused of stealing money.

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