A top RTD investigator who is the target of a criminal probe into allegedly fraudulent fund-raising practices on behalf of a police association was fired last week after a search turned up stolen police identification cards.
RTD Police Chief James Burgess said Monday that the investigator, former Assistant Inspector General David Bruce Deluca, in addition to possible fraud counts, may be charged with theft of the identification cards. Deluca was an administrative lieutenant with the Southern California Rapid Transit District Police Department before joining the district's new inspector general's office last year.
Citing the possibility of litigation and the privacy of personnel records, RTD spokesman Greg Davey declined Monday to discuss the reasons for Deluca's firing. Davey said Deluca was dismissed by Inspector General Ernesto Fuentes on Wednesday--the day before news surfaced of a district attorney's office probe of Deluca and the fund-raising group he heads, the Police Officers' Assn. Ball of Los Angeles County.
ID Cards Found in Search
In an interview, however, Burgess said that district attorney investigators who searched several residences and offices earlier this month in connection with the probe discovered blank RTD police identification cards that had been taken "without authorization."
Although he declined to give details or discuss how the cards may have been used, Burgess said "criminal charges are pending" in connection with the discovery. "That's very serious . . . obviously they can be used to misrepresent someone as a police officer," Burgess said.
Neither Deluca nor his attorney could be reached Monday afternoon for comment.
Last week, the district attorney's office announced that it was investigating whether Deluca fraudulently solicited donations from thousands of people over the past 2 1/2 years while he was serving as president of the police officers' association.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Julie Sergojan said that criminal charges may be filed within a few weeks against Deluca. Sergojan, a prosecutor in the major frauds section, said the group used "deceptive" techniques to raise $300,000 or more. The association's solicitors would telephone people at random, claiming to be a charitable group selling tickets for a ball or variety show. The solicitors said the money was being raised for such groups as City of Hope or the Crippled Children's Fund, Sergojan said.
Gym Equipment Bought
Most of the money was actually used to buy equipment for a San Gabriel Valley gym where a small group of members worked out, Sergojan said. The money also paid for association members to attend police Olympic competitions, she said.
Burgess also said Monday that he is personally conducting an investigation, in conjunction with the district attorney's office, of his department to see if any employees acted illegally or violated department policies.
He said that at least one other RTD police officer, whom he declined to identify, apparently was an officer of the fund-raising corporation headed by Deluca.
A number of RTD officers were involved in weightlifting competition and apparently worked out with Deluca, Burgess said, but he added, "That does not necessarily mean they were involved in any criminal or illegal activity."
Transferred in July
Deluca was Burgess' assistant until last July, when he transferred to the inspector general office and headed up the watchdog units of internal investigations of waste.
His department did not condone or sanction the effort, but Burgess said he realized that Deluca's group was raising money that helped support the gym. He said he had warned Deluca two or three years ago not to conduct any of the association's business on district time or use district facilities or equipment for fund-raising purposes.
He gave the warning after receiving inquiries about Deluca's association during an earlier investigation by the Los Angeles City Police Commission.