Former Pasadena city employee gets 14 years in prison for embezzling $3.6 million

A former Pasadena city employee convicted of embezzling millions of dollars from city coffers was sentenced Friday to 14 years in prison, the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office said.

Danny Wooten, 55, a former analyst with Pasadena’s Department of Public Works, was convicted in November of 53 felony counts, including embezzlement, conflict of interest and misappropriation of public funds.

His co-defendant, Tyrone Collins, the owner of Collins Electric, a business through which some of the money was embezzled, was convicted of 20 counts and sentenced to seven years in prison.

Wooten was ordered to pay $3.695 million and Collins must pay $900,000 in restitution, said Ricardo Santiago, a spokesman for the district attorney’s office.

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Wooten was originally charged with 60 felony counts, including grand theft. Prosecutors said that over more than a decade, Wooten embezzled $6 million by generating 300 false invoices for the city’s underground utility program, which he managed.

Evidence presented to the court could prove only $3.698 million was taken, Santiago said.

The underground utility program, which is independent of the city’s general fund, is financed by a tax on electric customers. It pays for moving power and communications lines underground.

According to an external audit, Wooten directed more than $3.5 million to Collins. Money paid to Collins Electric was either repaid in cashier’s checks to Wooten or paid to New Covenant Christian Fellowship Center in Pomona, where Wooten was a senior pastor, and a second church with which Wooten was affiliated, the Southern California Evangelist Jurisdiction Center in Pasadena, the audit showed.

It is unclear whether the churches ever received any funds. Wooten approved and picked up the checks made payable to the two churches, then deposited them in accounts held in his name, according to the audit.

Wooten, who worked for the city for 12 years, was placed on administrative leave in March for an unrelated matter. He was fired on July 25 for reasons unrelated to the embezzlement investigation, city officials said. The city had previously fired two department heads in connection with the embezzlement case.

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