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Man extradited from Spain faces charges in Santa Ana charter school embezzlement case

Man extradited from Spain faces charges in Santa Ana charter school embezzlement case
A van bearing a message sits in the parking lot in front of one of the buildings at Albor Charter School in Santa Ana in April 2005. (Robert Lachman / Los Angeles Times)

More than a decade ago, an audit uncovered that the executive director of a Santa Ana charter school had funneled millions in state funds to several businesses he owned.

After being extradited from Spain, Emilio Vazquez arrived in Orange County recently to face decade-old felony charges that include misappropriation of public funds, forgery and grand theft, the Orange County district attorney’s office said Wednesday.

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Vazquez served as the executive director of Albor Charter School from 2002 to 2006. Allegations of questionable spending, fiscal mismanagement and conflicts of interest led the Santa Ana Unified School District to revoke Albor’s charter in 2005.

Although a legal battle allowed the school to stay open for the next school year, Vazquez closed Albor in March 2006 without notice to students or staff.

Because Albor failed to perform financial accounting that listed liabilities and assets, and because of concern about potential fraud and misappropriation of funds, the county Department of Education called in a team to perform an audit.

A 118-page report found that Vazquez had funneled millions in state funds to businesses controlled by Vazquez, his wife and their associates. It is unclear how the money was spent.

The audit findings were turned over to the district attorney’s office and charges were brought in March 2009. That same month, authorities issued an arrest warrant for Vazquez.

Later that year, authorities found Vazquez in Spain and the Department of Justice submitted a request for his extradition. The extradition was approved in April 2010, but while Vazquez was released on bail, he fled to China and was not surrendered to the U.S., according to the district attorney’s office.

This year, Vazquez was deported from China back to Spain and surrendered to U.S. marshals. He arrived in Orange County on Feb. 8. He is in custody on $3.12-million bail and must prove the money came from a legal source before posting bail.

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