Civic Life

Cabrillo vice president is charged with embezzlement, misappropriation of funds from former job

Paul De La Cerda, 47, was charged with one felony count each of misappropriation of government funds and embezzlement of government funds. De La Cerda is accused of forging documents he submitted for reimbursement, according to the district attorney’s office.

UPDATE: This story was updated Saturday evening to include a comment from Cabrillo President Matt Wetstein as well as information regarding an upcoming board of trustees meeting.

The vice president of instruction at Cabrillo College has been accused of overbilling his former employer — East Los Angeles College — about $1,600 for trips he took as part of his job, the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office announced Thursday.

Paul De La Cerda
(Via Cabrillo College)

Paul De La Cerda, 47, was charged with one felony count each of misappropriation of government funds and embezzlement of government funds. De La Cerda is accused of forging documents he submitted for reimbursement, according to the district attorney’s office.

De La Cerda began working at Cabrillo in July.

Reached by phone on Saturday evening, Cabrillo President Matt Wetstein said that he could not comment about the incident, other than to refer to a statement he gave to media outlets in late September and early October. At that time, the East Los Angeles College newspaper published a report about Cabrillo hiring De La Cerda despite him being dismissed from the earlier job.

“We were aware of the circumstances of why he left East L.A., and we went through the normal process for hiring,” he said.

Wetstein said that he has spoken to De La Cerda since the news came out, but declined to describe the conversation.

On Friday afternoon, Cabrillo spokesperson Kristin Fabos released the following statement:

“The Cabrillo Community College District is actively engaged in working on this matter. We take this development very seriously and recognize this is creating concern among employees, students, and the community.

“We acknowledge that concern, but are restricted in what we can publicly share as this is a confidential personnel matter. Please know that this has our full attention and that we will share additional details as we are able. The best interests of the college, its students and employees, and our community continue to be paramount.”

Lookout Santa Cruz reached out via email to De La Cerda but did not receive a response.

Prosecutors say De La Cerda, who previously served as the dean of economic development and innovation with East Los Angeles College, overbilled the school about $1,600 for several hotel stays between March 2017 and 2019.

De La Cerda left East L.A. College in June 2021, said William Boyer, Los Angeles Community College District’s director of communications. The student newspaper said he was dismissed in March, but Boyer couldn’t confirm that.

“This is a very serious matter, and ensuring that we are good and careful stewards of the public taxpayer monies entrusted to us is a top priority for the district, our board and executive staff,” Boyer said in a statement.

The case remains under investigation by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. De La Cerda is scheduled to be arraigned Jan. 7.

Boyer said the district has “cooperated fully” with the investigation.

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Officials with the district attorney’s office and Sheriff’s Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The next meeting of the Cabrillo College Board of Trustees is scheduled for Monday evening. Though unclear whether the issue will be discussed, the closed session agenda includes an item for employee discipline or termination.

Lookout Santa Cruz Correspondent Hillary Ojeda and Executive Editor Dan Evans contributed to this report.