An arrest order has been issued for a former Los Angeles police lieutenant accused of embezzling $22,000 from a special fund in the police chief's office and forging the signatures of his supervisors to cover his tracks, authorities said Thursday.
Victor Siaki Liu, 56, currently the highest ranking law-enforcement officer in American Samoa, is charged with seven felony counts as a result of his alleged mishandling of the Los Angeles Police Department's community relations activity expense fund.
The fund in question is used to pay the expenses of officers who do such things as visit schools and neighborhood groups. Liu, who was with the LAPD for 30 years, was sole administrator of the fund for 14 years until his retirement last spring. Liu was chief of the community relations section for 16 years.
The alleged thefts from the fund occurred between August, 1989, and May 16, 1992, according to a criminal complaint filed April 22. City auditors first alerted the Police Department to irregularities after a surprise February, 1992, audit that found $5,194 missing.
The LAPD's bunco-forgery unit conducted its own investigation and discovered thousands of dollars more that could not be accounted for.
The $22,000 figure, City Controller Rick Tuttle said Thursday, may represent only a portion of the missing money. There are no pre-1989 records to examine, he said.
"The internal controls in this fund were not good," Tuttle said. "There were unaccounted-for monies, forged signatures and there was just not a proper level of review."
In an audit report made public for the first time Thursday, Tuttle's office outlined the irregularities found in its review and recommended a series of measures designed to safeguard the fund from misuse.
The irregularities, the report said, represented "significant system deficiencies" and "lack of proper supervision by management."
Deputy Controller Tim Lynch said the Police Department last December submitted a report detailing extensive changes it would make in the handling of the fund.
Police Cmdr. David Gascon, spokesman for Chief Willie L. Williams, said Thursday that the changes, including removing the fund from the chief's office, had been made. All the criminal activity alleged in the complaint against Liu occurred before Williams' appointment. No other officer or police administrator was involved in the alleged thefts, Gascon said.
Tuttle said he had spoken by phone Thursday to the governor general of American Samoa, A. P. Lutali, to see if Liu would surrender to authorities and save Los Angeles taxpayers the cost of extraditing him.
Lutali told him, Tuttle said, that Liu was not on the Pacific island but at a home he maintains in Simi Valley. An aide to Lutali, contacted later by The Times, said both Lutali and Liu were "off-island."
Liu, she said, has been in Los Angeles for a week as part of his job as American Samoa's commissioner of public safety. The aide, who did not want her name to be made public, said she knew nothing of the charges against Liu.
"We're shocked," she said. "This is the first we've heard of this."
Lutali appointed Liu to his post in January, she said.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Joseph D. Shidler, who is handling the case against Liu, said he does not believe Lieu is in California. "In fact, we have information that he is in Samoa," Shidler said.