As part of my effort to check up on a few of the biggest stories I’ve worked on in the last year or so, I’ve been making some calls about former redevelopment officials Carolyn Y. Smith and Dante Dayacap.
Those are the two former officials who last year pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $435,000 from the Southeastern Economic Development Corp., the agency once tasked with revitalizing some of southeastern San Diego’s most blighted neighborhoods.
Dayacap and Smith’s shenanigans were uncovered after a Voice of San Diego investigation revealed Smith had paid herself and her staff hundreds of thousands of dollars in secret bonuses. The officials were investigated by the FBI and were eventually charged by the state attorney general.
Where We Left It
The judge didn’t sentence the defendants to any jail time, opting instead to issue the hefty fine. But there was a big catch: Dayacap and Smith only have to pay back the city at a rate of $100 a month each.
At that rate, to fully pay the city back, both would have to live until 2193. Put another way, if each lives another 30 years, the city will recover a total of $36,000, or about 8 percent of what it is owed.
The City Attorney’s Office and the County Probation Department both told me at the time that they would be fully investigating Smith and Dayacap’s finances to see if either has assets that can be seized by the city as payment for their crimes.
What’s Happened Since:
There has been one major step forward.
The first step in seeking quicker repayment from Smith and Dayacap was for the city to get a civil judgment against the defendants. That’s happened. On March 13, the City Attorney’s Office received a document called an “abstract of judgment” from the court. That entitles the city to begin taking action against the defendants in civil court.
The matter is now in the hands of an investigator at the City Treasurer’s Office, said Jonathan Heller, spokesman for City Attorney Jan Goldsmith. The investigator will be looking into Smith and Dayacap’s finances to see if there are any assets the city can seize in order to get paid back quicker.
“The internal process is geared towards finding the assets before they can be moved,” Heller said. “To the extent that we can accelerate the recovery of the city’s money, that’s our goal.”
The county’s chief probation officer, Mack Jenkins, said his department continues to investigate Dayacap and Smith’s finances. Jenkins said if his investigators discover that the defendants have the ability to pay more than $100 a month, they will ask the judge to increase the payment amount.
What the Judge Says
I also called Judge Edward P. Allard III to talk about the sentencing.
Allard told me he believes the sentence was both fair and severe enough for the crimes committed. He said the public often doesn’t appreciate the burden that comes with having a felony conviction.
“They’ve lost their jobs, and their prospects for future jobs and they have to pay this amount of restitution. If that’s not a deterrent, I don’t know what is,” Allard said.
Asked about the $100 a month figure, Allard said he chose that amount based on his knowledge of both defendants’ finances. The information he had before him was that Dayacap and Smith were both essentially broke, he said.
“Nobody had anything,” he said.
If it transpires that either defendant actually has more money or assets than he was told about, Allard said the prosecutors are always welcome to bring the case before him again, so he can change the repayment amount. In the meantime, he said he understands if people are frustrated, but said he made the right judgment based on the information he had at the time.
“You’re not going to please everybody in every case,” he said.
Now, we wait.
At some point, the city’s investigator will determine whether Smith or Dayacap have any assets that the city can get its hands on.
The investigator, working with the City Attorney’s Office, will then have to decide whether the city should go through the trouble of trying to get those assets, or whether the expense of doing so isn’t worth it to the taxpayers.
I’ll be checking in periodically with the City Attorney’s Office to see how that process is coming along.
Will Carless is an investigative reporter at Voice of San Diego currently focused on local education. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 619.550.5670.
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