Jul 28, 2014
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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.

CUSD Investigator Alleges Coaches Took Bribes, Conspired, Stole

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.

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