Ex-superintendent allegedly stole money from Parlier schools, charged with embezzlement

A former Parlier Unified Superintendent is facing several charges including embezzlement and misappropriation of funds, according to the Fresno County District Attorney's Office.

Following an investigation it was determined that Gerardo Alvarez had been stealing money from the school district from July 2013 until July 2014.

RELATED: Action News uncovers document detailing alleged misuse of money at Parlier Unified

The 56-year old Alvarez is out on bail after he was taken into custody on Friday morning.

He is facing up to four years in prison.

His arrest comes after a nearly two-year investigation by the District Attorney's Office and a Grand Jury report before that.

Court documents reveal Alvarez allegedly took money from the school district and moved it to a private account for personal use.

The investigation discovered Alvarez transferred less than $10,000 to a private account called the Sunshine Club - an account started in June of 2013 that was set up to be used for employee morale items such as birthday cakes and flowers - but court documents show a total of fourteen Sunshine Club checks were made out to Alvarez to pay mostly for dinners and out-of-town trips.

Action News Legal Analyst Tony Capozzi says prosecutors need to show Alvarez used the money for personal benefit to prove embezzlement.

"Can he show that the bills to various restaurants, to various hotels were related to purposes of the Sunshine Club? If he can do that, he might have a defense," Capozzi says.

Fresno County Superintendent Jim Yovino began to express concerns with the way the district was handling funds in the summer of 2015.

Shortly thereafter, he ordered a fraud audit of Parlier Unified.

"There are a lot of things in our community that one would see that are much more serious. But I believe this as serious as well. This is about dollars that should be going students and schools," Yovino said.

Action News tried to reach Alvarez for comment but could not track him down.

He's scheduled to be back in court on January 18.
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