Santa Monica-Malibu school district officials were given a measure of closure Thursday following the arraignment of a former employee who stole about $40,000 worth of district technology equipment.
Jorge Lopez Paredes, 27, pleaded no contest to grand theft during a hearing in Los Angeles Superior Court’s Airport Courthouse.
He was sentenced to 8 days in jail, 60 days of community service and 5 years probation, according to Sarah Ardalani, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
The presiding judge awarded the district $40,734, according to SMMUSD spokeswoman Gail Pinsker. The district has received a check for $13,300, and it is also expecting a $7,900 check from the Santa Monica Police Department for money that Paredes collected through sales of the stolen equipment, Pinsker said.
Paredes will have to serve 3 years in prison if he does not pay back the outstanding balance within 5 years, according to Pinsker. In addition, Pinsker said, his community service requirement will triple for any breach of his probation.
“The district is satisfied with the restitution plan regarding repayment and probation ordered by the judge,” Pinsker said in a statement to the Daily Press.
Progress in the case comes as new equipment is being installed across the district with funding from voter-backed bond measures to upgrade school facilities and classrooms.
Santa Monica police arrested Paredes in April after security video showed him taking valuable electronics from SMMUSD headquarters in the 1600 block of 16th Street, officials said. At the time, Paredes was employed by the district as a maintenance worker who specialized in heating, ventilation and air conditioning.
Police detectives searched Paredes’ residence in Los Angeles on April 29 and found evidence that linked him to the crime, Sgt. Rudy Camarena previously told the Daily Press. They also found additional items that were later identified as belonging to the school district.
Paredes, who did not have direct contact with students, was terminated by the district.
“We are able to monitor and protect our assets through our system of asset management at each site and the district office, as well as additional security measures,” Pinsker said. “In this case, these measures provided proof of this misconduct.
“We hold our employees to a high standard and expect everyone employed with SMMUSD to uphold terms of their employment, and follow all laws and education code.”
In June, the local Board of Education voted to amend a district contract for wireless technology infrastructure to replace the stolen equipment. The extra $40,734 allocated to vendors Meridian IT and Promark Technology was part of a roughly $3-million contract for technological improvements funded through Measure ES, which voters approved three years ago.
District staff ordered the equipment before board approval to expedite the installation of the new equipment.