Jailed Ex-Chief of O.C. Charity Saddled by Debt

This story was reported by staff writers Rene Lynch, David A. Avila, Mark I. Pinsky, George Frank and Eric Lichtblau. It was written by Lynch

The former executive director of an Irvine nonprofit agency for the homeless, arrested Tuesday on theft and forgery charges, ran up debts to dozens of creditors--ranging from supermarkets to a Mercedes-Benz lease agency--before declaring bankruptcy three months ago, court documents show.

Prosecutors are also investigating whether Clyde E. Weinman, charged with skimming $81,000 from Irvine Temporary Housing, diverted more than $150,000 of the agency’s money toward a private contracting business he was apparently operating, Deputy Dist. Atty. Daniel McNerney said Wednesday.

In addition, the U.S. attorney’s office is examining whether Weinman--who was fired from his post in June when agency board members found thousands of dollars missing from their bank accounts--played a role in the alleged siphoning of funds from a poverty law center in Los Angeles where he worked in the mid-1980s, the agency’s executive director said Wednesday.


But Weinman’s attorney, Milton Kerlan, said his client is not guilty of the criminal charges and attributed Weinman’s financial problems to his recent dismissal.

Kerlan added that there is no evidence that Weinman used Irvine Temporary Housing funds for personal purposes, and added that his client has never been charged in connection with a probe into missing funds at the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, where Weinman worked as an administrator. Foundation officials years ago suspected a diversion of funds took place there, but federal officials will not say whether the investigation is underway.

Weinman is scheduled to be arraigned today in Municipal Court in Newport Beach on 15 felony theft and forgery charges.

In addition to allegations that he skimmed about $81,000 to cover personal expenses, such as a lease on his Mercedes-Benz, cable television bills and payments on personal loans, Weinman is accused of forging signatures on nearly 600 agency checks totaling nearly $450,000. The exact uses for all the checks are still under investigation.

But court documents and interviews portray a man with a troubled recent financial history and a major debt burden that contrasted with his modest agency salary of $30,000 and his wife’s income as an employee of the Tustin Unified School District.

Weinman was the subject of several civil suits and liens against his property, and had mortgages against his home of about $100,000 more than its value when he declared bankruptcy Aug. 3, 1992.

Creditors included holders of six trust deeds against Weinman’s home at 24731 Camino Villa St. in Lake Forest, Vons Grocery Store, his dentist, therapists, and numerous other individuals and companies.

A Newport Beach man, who requested anonymity, said his company loaned money to Weinman in the form of a second trust deed.

“The police came to my office one day and asked if I did business with the Irvine Temporary Housing. I told them ‘no.’ They asked if I knew anybody from the ITH and I told them I knew Weinman,” he said. “I loaned him some money and he was paying me with Irvine Temporary Housing checks.”

Records in the county recorder’s office showed that the IRS slapped a lien on the Weinmans’ property for $5,570 on Sept. 26, 1990. Weinman repaid the government in full in November, 1991, and the lien was lifted from the property.

This year, however, the Weinmans were served with several notices of default by creditors on overdue house payments that totaled $9,200 as of April. They were later notified that the house would be put up for auction in August, records show.

The indebtedness drove the couple into Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceedings earlier this year, and federal court records show that the Weinmans owed $409,628 to six creditors, plus another $5,965 in back payments on their house. Most of that money is secured on the couple’s home, which documents show has a market value of $315,000. The couple bought the house for $87,000 in 1977.

The bankruptcy case was discharged Oct. 28, court records show. It is unclear how much each creditor was paid.

The bankruptcy records show that the couple earned $3,200 a month at the time of the August bankruptcy filing, with Marilyn reporting $2,500 a month as an employee of the Tustin school district. The couple owed the state Franchise Tax Board $2,312, records show.

Another debt came in March, 1991, when Clyde Weinman was ordered to pay $2,028 to an Orange County couple after they alleged in a small claims suit that he had botched the expansion of their master bedroom.

“He really screwed us,” Lynn Delange of Mission Viejo said in an interview. After learning of the charges against Weinman, she said: “I’m not surprised after the way he treated us.”

While the Delanges ended up recovering $2,000 in court, she said: “It ended up costing us quite a bit more than that. I’m not going to get into figures, but it was a hurtful experience. . . . It was disastrous.”

In addition to the Delange suit, Weinman was sued by the Lake Forest Homeowners Assn. in 1986 for failure to pay dues of $713.60. The association placed a lien on the couple’s home, which was lifted only after Weinman paid $2,000 in dues and legal fees. The association is listed among Weinman’s bankruptcy creditors for $1,500.

When he joined Irvine Temporary Housing in December, 1989, Weinman assured agency officials that he would have no problems living on the salary, because he ran a computer business on the side, officials said.

Besides, he said during an interview, he felt working for the homeless and the less fortunate was a personal “mission” he wanted to fulfill, recalls Margie Wakeham, a member of the Board of Directors at Irvine Temporary Housing.

“It was all a shell game,” Wakeham said.

Attorney Kerlan said Weinman will be vindicated because the investigation will ultimately show that Weinman tried to save the “underfunded” organization by pumping in personal funds and getting loans from supporters to keep the program afloat.

Kerlan said Weinman’s financial problems should not suggest wrongdoing.

“I think you’ll find all these financial problems occur after he was fired,” Kerlan said. “If he was stealing all this money, he wouldn’t have those financial problems, right?”

Weinman is also suspected of soliciting friends and supporters of Irvine Temporary Housing to cover outstanding agency bills, and then using incoming agency monies to pay them back, McNerney and Wakeham said.

The U.S. attorney’s office is investigating whether Weinman played a role in the alleged diversion of funds from the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, where he worked as an administrator, said Executive Director Tomas Olmos.

“The case goes back a number of years, and all I can tell you is that somehow money was being diverted,” Olmos said. Federal prosecutors declined to confirm or deny that an investigation is underway.

Olmos said no one from Irvine Temporary Housing ever checked Weinman’s background with the foundation.

McNerney offered no further details of local prosecutors’ investigation into whether Weinman diverted money toward a private contracting business he was apparently operating. According to the Irvine police documents, Irvine Temporary Housing funds were used to purchase thousands of dollars of materials at local hardware stores.

State officials do not list Weinman as a licensed contractor.

The financial problems have undermined the work done by the housing program. The organization was put in jeopardy during the past year, when liens were placed on properties owned by Irvine Temporary Housing and the Internal Revenue Service began investigating the agency for failure to pay taxes, Wakeham said.

The city of Irvine and Orange County have temporarily suspended funding to the agency while the housing program tries to work out payment plans for all outstanding debts, Wakeham said. She added that center officials are trying to determine whether they are insured for the losses.

Weinman worked at Goodwill Industries of Orange County before going to Irvine Temporary Housing. George Kessinger, president of Goodwill, said Weinman was a good employee who was missed when he left to take the job with Legal Aid.

“I’m very saddened that this has happened to Weinman,” said Kessinger, who said he considers Weinman a friend and was surprised by the charges. “We were very pleased with the work he did here.”

Priscilla Peterson, who lives next door to the Weinman family, said she always saw Weinman working on his home.

“I used to kid him about always working on his home and he said it was his way to relax,” Peterson said.

“If you can define an American tragedy, it would be this because he is such a family man.”

Weinman has lived in the same house with his wife and children since 1977, neighbors said. He has two daughters and a son.

Another neighbor, Mary A. Hagstrom, said her family has been neighbors with the Weinmans since they first moved to the location, and that “he is innocent as far as I am concerned.”

“He is the best. He is a role model. A wonderful man and a fabulous father and husband,” Hagstrom said.

“I pray he is proven innocent. It’s not fair that he and his family suffer,” Hagstrom said.