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CUSD Investigator Alleges Coaches Took Bribes, Conspired, Stole

Thousands of pages of documentation assert that head football coaches at San Clemente, Capistrano Valley and Dana Hills high school deserved their recent firing.

Erstwhile football coaches Eric Patton and Chi Chi Biehn engaged in bribery, theft and conspiracy totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to thousands of pages of investigation reports released to the media today under the California Public Records Act.

A third coach, Brent Melbon, who headed up the football team, received bribes, investigators assert in the documents.

The documents say the district lost "hundreds of thousands of dollars, with a significant amount of the loss going to the coaches."

The Board of Trustees last month  – Patton, the retired head football coach for ; Biehn, former head football coach for Mission Viejo's ; and Melbon – for participating in what investigators say was .

Patton and his supporters , saying any money received from the athletic equipment company implicated in the alleged scheme went right back into the football program.

District officials say other employees have been disciplined for their involvment in the scandal and that the district was centralizing funds and purchasing to prevent future scams.

Teresa Sando and her husband, Geoff Sando, bought Lapes Athletic Team Sales of Laguna Hills in 2008 as it was going under. After the purchase, they discovered coaches from across Southern California had personal spending accounts with the retailer.

"[Owner William] Lapes made sales calls and offered the coaches something they were not getting from other suppliers, that being a personal financial reward for using Lapes for their sporting good orders," a private investigator hired by the district's lawyers state in the documents.

The now-defunct Lapes Athletic Team Sales (LAT) bribed the coaches for using the company as a vendor to purchase district equipment without bids or discounts, the documents state. The investigators also assert Patton and Biehn conspired to steal tens of thousands of dollars from the district by submitting phony purchase documentation.

"By paying bribes to the coaches and arranging a means by which the coaches could purchase whatever they wanted without oversight, Lapes was quickly able to build a multimillion-dollar business and ensure loyaty from the coaches, whom he had compromised," the documents state.

Investigators say the athletic equipment company deposited a total of $69,000 in special accounts set up for Patton from 1993-94, when he was head coach at Capo Valley and from 2000-08 during his tenure at San Clemente.

In addition, the document asserts he conspired with Lapes to steal nearly $38,000 by submitting fraudulent purchase documentation or receiving merchandise and immediately returning it.

The documents also states Lapes deposited a total of $48,000 in special accounts set up for Biehn from 2003-08.

Furthermore, investigators say Biehn also conspired with Lapes to steal more than $42,000 by the same means they accuse Patton of using.

The investigation accuses Melbon of taking about $4,300 in bribes.

Garry Meeker March 15, 2012 at 03:44 PM
Wow; Now its in our Athlectic dept.
Matt Gaffney March 15, 2012 at 04:33 PM
I agree with "Peoplewatcher." CUSD has handled this matter as a complete kangaroo court. I've known Eric Patton since 1964 & there's not a more honest honorable man around. The CUSD board bought into the sham investigation brought by that pinhead Farley & his henchmen. When the DA refuses to prosecute this matter the truth will FINALLY come out. too bad Eric's career & reputation will be completely in ruins. CUSD just continues to be a laughinstock in the way it's being managed. This used to be a damn fine school district. Too bad.
Adam Townsend March 15, 2012 at 10:28 PM
We will be continuing to follow this story, but having sifted through the documents myself, there is strong evidence attached to the investigation summaries that includes interviews, receipts and invoices. It seems clear that money was being moved around inappropriately, but Patton, at least, has argued that he pumped all the funds right back into the football program. The investigation makes no assertion as to what any of the coaches did with the money once it was under their control.
peoplewatcher March 16, 2012 at 03:15 PM
Adam, One thing that has not been mentioned in any of your reporting is that the annual budget of the SCHS football program exceeds the total funds provided by the district to the program by a factor of 3 maybe 4? Is this not correct? How then could the district assert that any funds were stolen from the district. If Coach Patton raised the funds himself how could he be guilty of stealing from himself. This whole smoke and mirrors game the district is playing is absurd when you look at it in this light. The district is using the argument that they gave SCHS Football say $10,000 and Patton raised another say $30,000 and they find inconsistencies in $3,000 of the total $40,000 and they are making the argument that it came from their $10,000.( I am making up dollar amounts because I don't have access to the records ) However you probably do. Patton is going to win his lawsuit against the district and then hopefully some apologies will be forthcoming to repair his reputation. I don't believe that the inconsistencies are anything more than minor tradeoffs between vendor and customer but if the goal is to vilify then those minor inconsistencies are portrayed as theft, conspiracy, bribery, and kickbacks.
Capo mom March 16, 2012 at 04:00 PM
^^ This question is inane. If Patton raised the money for the team he can't use it for himself. Doing so would be fraud and theft. The fact that is overlooked is that Patton wasn't "the customer" CUSD was. If that is his defense, he's done for.

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