Southwest Riverside News Network by Jose Arballo Jr - December 28, 2010
Segawa, 40, has sought to withdraw the guilty plea he entered June 23, but Judge Helios Hernandez, after hearing testimony on the matter, rejected the request.
Former Mt. San Jacinto College police Chief Kevin Harold Segawa has been sentenced to a year in jail Tuesday after a motion to withdraw his guilty plea was rejected, said John Hall, spokesman for Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco. Segawa, 40, has sought to withdraw the guilty plea he entered June 23, but Judge Helios Hernandez, after hearing testimony on the matter, rejected the request and sentenced the former police chief to the 12-month jail sentence, Hall said in an email. Segawa was to begin serving his time immediately. Segawa was also placed on three years’ probation. He was charged in December with one count each of bribery and destruction of evidence by a public official, and two counts each of perjury, submitting falsified documents and embezzlement — all felonies — as well as misdemeanor counts of concealing evidence and modifying a written notice to appear. Prosecutors said that between 2005 and 2008, Segawa sent 85 percent of the campus’s towing business to Pirot’s Towing, whose 40-year-old owner, Morgan Allen McComas, is charged with bribery and misappropriation of funds.Segawa received a motorcycle, rims and tires for his pickup truck, about $120 in free lunches at a Riverside restaurant, tickets for a box seat at the Del Mar Racetrack and $75 in food and drinks at a 2006 Christmas party, none of which he declared, according to the prosecution. Investigators estimate McComas’ company may have earned as much as a half-million dollars from towing fees.The case for the co-defendant McComas is still set for trial and the next court date is in February.
MENIFEE: MSJC's police chief arrested
The Californian - December 2, 2009
DISTRICT ATTORNEY'S OFFICE ALLEGES HE ACCEPTED A BRIBE, WITHHELD EVIDENCE
Mt. San Jacinto College's police chief surrendered to authorities Wednesday after the district attorney's office filed criminal charges against him alleging that he directed nearly all the school's towing needs to one company in exchange for gifts and free lunches from the tow company's owner. Kevin Segawa, 39, was charged with 10 felony and misdemeanor counts, including bribery, perjury and misappropriation of public funds, court records show. He was booked into Robert Presley Detention Center in Riverside and his bail was set at $25,000. Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco said in a telephone interview Wednesday that Segawa's arrest was the culmination of a 13-month probe prompted late last year by tips received from several disgruntled former officers of the college's police department. "We got the information and started looking into it very quietly until we started getting corroboration and more and more evidence," Pacheco said. Investigators ultimately uncovered a police chief who pretty much felt he was above the law, Pacheco said. "In a small department, every now and then, people say, 'Well hey, I am the law, and who is going to check me?'" Pacheco said. "That is why the district attorney has a bureau of investigations and has jurisdiction that covers the entire county." Mt. San Jacinto College founded its police department in 2002 with a $150,000 federal grant. It has since grown to an operation that includes 12 employees and an annual budget of $900,000. Officers are responsible for maintaining public safety and enforcing the law at the college's two campuses in Menifee and San Jacinto and are vested with full law enforcement powers. Segawa was hired in 2003 as a campus police officer and worked his way up the ranks, earning the role of chief of police in 2005. According to the district attorney's office, Segawa allegedly used that position to his own advantage. From 2005 to 2008, campus police officers had about 1,200 vehicles towed in and around the two campuses for various vehicle code violations, said John Hall, a spokesman for the district attorney's office. Although an informal tow rotation existed involving four companies, 85 percent of the tows were directed to the San Jacinto-based Pirot's Towing Service, investigators say. That generated an estimated $200,000 to $500,000 in potential profit for the towing company, Hall said. Investigators say that, in exchange, Segawa received gifts from the owner of Pirot's Towing including a used motorcycle, used rims and tires for his personal pickup, tickets for a box seat at a Del Mar Racetrack event, and about $120 in free lunches, he said. Authorities say it was sort of an unofficial department policy of Segawa's to use that company. Several campus officers told investigators that Segawa directed or influenced them to not only tow vehicles, but use Pirot's Towing, Hall said. A December 2008 civil lawsuit filed by several officers who were fired from the college's police department also asserts as much. One plaintiff in the civil suit claims he was called into Segawa's office in April 2008 and told that "if he impounded 100 vehicles he would be able to ride a brand new Honda motorcycle as a patrol vehicle," the suit states. "Segawa stated (he) had to exclusively use Pirot's Towing in San Jacinto for all vehicle impounds, even the vehicles impounded at the Menifee campus, over 25 miles away," the lawsuit states. That case, which alleged wrongful termination, harassment and intimidation by Segawa, was dismissed by a judge in August. Nevertheless, Pacheco said, the quid pro quo between Segawa and Morgan McComas, 40, owner of Pirot's Towing in San Jacinto, was illegal. He said for a public agency to give exclusive towing rights to one company is a violation of state law, and receiving gifts in exchange for that arrangement amounts to bribery, he said. "We take public safety very seriously in our office," Pacheco said. "Bribery is not something we look away from." McComas, who also surrendered to investigators Wednesday afternoon, was charged with one felony count of offering a bribe to a public officer and two felony counts of being an aider and abettor in the misappropriation of public funds. In addition to the bribery charges, Segawa also is accused of failing to disclose the gifts on paperwork that public officials are required to submit annually to the California Fair Political Practices Commission, leading to perjury charges. Segawa also is facing two counts of concealing and destroying evidence, allegedly a supplemental police report that portrayed him in a negative light, according to the district attorney's office. Those charges involve a former college employee whom he arrested on suspicion of embezzlement. That employee, Tomorrow Horton, claims in a civil suit filed in April that Segawa pressured her to resign. That case is pending. Also in 2008, Segawa arrested an illegal immigrant who was selling ice cream from a cart in Menifee, not on the college campus, according to the district attorney's office. He cited the ice cream vendor, seized the cart, then turned the man in to immigration officers, who deported him, prosecutors say. Segawa reportedly took the ice cream home, gave what would not fit in his refrigerator to a neighbor, and never filed an arrest report with his department's records division, which is required by law. Segawa has been on paid administrative leave from his $103,508-a-year job since July, said the college's spokeswoman, Karin Marriott. She could not say Wednesday whether his arrest would prompt him to be put on unpaid leave. In Segawa's absence, the college earlier this year named Terry Meadows, a 30-year veteran of the Riverside County Sheriff's Department, as interim police chief.