Former Sacramento City Mayoral Aide Arrested for Stealing Public Funds, Fraud
Sacramento District Attorney Jan Scully announced today an arrest warrant was issued for Belisa Serna-Mayorga. Serna-Mayorga was formerly the council operations manager for the Office of the Mayor of the City of Sacramento. Sacramento City police detectives arrested her and booked her at the county jail. Bail has been set at $50,000.
In a statement, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said, “I am saddened by this news. The City moved swiftly to investigate and also conducted an audit of credit card use citywide. As charges have been filed, it would be inappropriate for me or my office to comment on any of the details. As the judicial process takes its course, our thoughts are with her family.”
Serna-Mayorga was issued a Sacramento City bank purchasing card to be used solely for City business. It is alleged that from July 2009 to June 2012, Serna-Mayorga used the card for personal items totaling over $19,000. Among the illegal charges were two Disneyland trips for her and her family in December of 2010 and June of 2012; hotels in Bodega Bay and Monterey; clothing; makeup; restaurants; grocery bills; and numerous iTunes games, music, movies, and entertainment applications.
In June of 2012, when an internal audit revealed Serna-Mayorga had not been submitting the required paperwork documenting her purchases, she admitted that numerous charges were personal. On June 28, she wrote two checks to the City of Sacramento totaling $3,029.17 for food and travel related purchases. Shortly thereafter (July 18) Serna-Mayorga wrote another check to the City for $6,000 to cover additional personal expenses she had charged. However, stop payments were placed on all three checks before the City could submit them for deposit, and in any event Serna-Mayorga’s checking account did not have the funds to cover the checks. The investigation found that for some of the accounting documents she had submitted to justify her purchases, the signature of the mayor’s chief of staff, Kunal Merchant, was forged.
Serna-Mayorga has been charged with felony offenses of misappropriation of public funds, grand theft of public funds, forgery, and making or drawing worthless checks. The maximum punishment that may be imposed for these offenses is six years, eight months in state prison.