Airport manager sought in $1.1-million theft

Times Staff Writer

Investigators from the San Bernardino County district attorney’s office are searching for the manager of the Yucca Valley Airport, who they say stole $1.1 million in state grant money that was earmarked for repairs to the airport’s runway.

Investigator Bud Randles said authorities managing the airport applied for the funds from the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services in 2003, but when the check came in 2004, Richard Paul Demel did not alert the board.

Instead, Demel, 51, allegedly deposited the $1.3 million check in a new account and made seven withdrawals totaling $1.1 million. Yucca Valley Airport District officials learned about the grant money and the alleged theft when the governor’s office called in January to get a status report on the repairs, Randles said.

Demel, who has homes in Bermuda Dunes and Yucca Valley, has disappeared. Anyone with information about Demel’s whereabouts is asked to call Randles at (909) 891-3563.