Missing government money leads to Santa Barbara county criminal case

Nine defendants are named

Missing Santa Barbara County funds leads to a court case with nine defendants (John Palminteri/KEYT photo)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Nine suspects including a Santa Barbara County employee are scheduled for an arraignment this week in a case connected to $1.7 million that's missing from government accounts.

The investigation involves receipts and invoices dating back to 2008.

The 13-page complaint was filed earlier today.  There were 27 counts. Some defendants and their attorney's appeared in court briefly. 

The charges involve misappropriation of government funds, forgery and conspiracy.  At the center of the investigation is a senior Public Works Department accountant Lynn Hogan.  She has worked for the county since 1988.

NewsChannel 3 has learned the county made some changes earlier this year and the financial issues in this case were exposed.  Specific details are expected to be revealed in court.  For now several defense attornies say they have not seen enough evidence to know the scope of the allegations. 

Along with Hogan, the complaint names Wendy Puchli, Michele Lavin, Richard Kaplinski, Vincent Anzivino, Michael Anzivino, Michael Elliott, Christina Huffman, and Leanna Hurada,

It's still unclear how all of the defendants were connected. Most are from the local area.  One is from Merced, one from Wyoming, and one lives in Pennsylvania.

Court testimony indicated some suspects were users of illegal opioid drugs. 

Last last week, when the allegations were revealed, NewsChannel 3 was unsuccessful on a request for comments from  top government officials. County Executive Officer Mona Miyasato said  in a statement she would "get to the bottom this and ensure there is full accountability for those responsible."    She is also launching an investigation into the financial procedures the county has been using. 

In court, Senior Deputy Brian Cota told Superior Court Judge Clifford Anderson, the oversight of public money by the government is a top priority.   His comments came as defense attornies attempted to block a media request for coverage from NewsChannel 3.  Judge Anderson ruled in favor of the press coverage, for today's hearing.

For more information click here to see the District Attorney complaint in the case.

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