Photo of Oscar Picazo
A former Lodi firefighter is facing charges for embezzling $297,000 from the Lodi Professional Firefighters Union.
According to Lodi Fire Captain Trevor Lambert, who also serves as the Union’s secretary, there was speculation growing that money was being taken because they learned that union bills were not being paid. A forensic auditor was hired to observe the transactions and he discovered that there was $297,000 worth of transactions and withdraws from the Union’s accounts. Records of the accounts revealed that these withdraws have been occurring for at least seven years.
When an investigation was launched by the city in September, the Union’s treasurer resigned from both the Union and the Lodi Fire Department. As a result of the resigning, the investigation halted.
During the investigation, investigators noticed that no public funds were taken, but there was a significant amount of money missing from the Union accounts.
According to the report, Oscar Picazo is suspected of embezzling the money. “Picazo was in charge of all of the union’s finances including the collection of dues, payments to other unions and all of the union’s bills,” said Lambert.
Picazo has been charged with grand theft by embezzlement over $950, taking, damaging or destroying property over $200 and theft of more than $100,000, said the report.
Lambert noted that the embezzlement almost terminated the union’s membership with the state and international fire unions. The Union was four days out from being kicked out of the two unions indefinitely at the time they were notified.
They are working hard to build back their reputation, but have been struggling to pay bills. Picazo reportedly contacted the Union president and returned $73,000 of the missing funds.
His arraignment has been set for Thursday at 9:15 a.m. at the Lodi branch of the San Joaquin County Superior Court.