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Norwalk : Sheriff’s Detectives Drop Music Festival Fraud Probe

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has ended a three-month investigation into charges of misuse of funds in connection with a mariachi festival held last June at Cerritos College.

“There was insufficient evidence to support criminal filings,” said Lt. Nancy Callanan, who is in charge of the detective bureau at the Norwalk sheriff’s station.

There had been “very general allegations of lots of money taken in (by the festival) and lots of money lost, and that the college lost money,” Callanan said. However, she said an investigation by both the station detectives and investigators of a forgery fraud unit did not establish evidence to bring criminal charges.

Callanan said the case would be placed in the inactive file and reopened in the future if new evidence is found.

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The Sheriff’s Department was asked to investigate after allegations of misuse of college funds and claims that people were not being paid were made to the college board of trustees by Ralph Kephart, said Mark Durant, president of the board.

Kephart, who twice has been a candidate for the college board, alleged that as much as $40,000 to $60,000 could have been lost by organizers and artists participating in the event, said Mark Wallace, college public information officer.

The college, which rented its stadium to organizers of the festival, conducted its own internal investigation before asking the Sheriff’s Department to investigate, Wallace said. College auditors did not find any school money missing, he said.

Proceeds from the festival were to benefit the college cultural arts project, which is trying to recruit students (especially Latinos) by sponsoring music, theater and dance classes in local school districts.

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