Editor's note: An earlier version of this story reported that Mr. Lopez allegedly embezzled as much as $400,000 from his campaign fund. That figure was inaccurate. The Almanac will report further details as they become available.
By Scott Morris Bay City News Service
The attorney for a San Mateo County sheriff's deputy accused in 2014 in a jail smuggling case and last week in a new case involving embezzlement and fraud has accused San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe of bringing a "personal vendetta" against his client.
Juan Pablo Lopez, 51, was charged last November with allowing two corrections officers to smuggle cellphones and drugs to an inmate in the Redwood City jail between April and December 2013.
Last week, Mr. Wagstaffe filed new charges against Mr. Lopez accusing him of committing fraud during a campaign for sheriff last year, embezzling campaign funds and filing false documents in an attempt to profit off of homes he owns in Newark and Redwood City.
But Mr. Lopez's attorney, Stuart Hanlon, said on Feb. 19 that he thinks the two cases against his client are retaliation for Mr. Lopez's unsuccessful bid for sheriff last year. Mr. Lopez, who ran as a write-in candidate (his name was not on the ballot) received just 1.4 percent of the vote in his loss to Sheriff Greg Munks.
"I think these charges are retaliation, this whole set of cases against him are retaliation," Mr. Hanlon said. He said Mr. Wagstaffe has a close relationship with Mr. Munks and is bringing the cases due to a "personal vendetta."
"This is really a misuse of the legal system," Mr. Hanlon said. He said he intends to file a motion to recuse the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office so the state Attorney General's Office can prosecute.
But Mr. Wagstaffe said that Mr. Hanlon's allegations of retaliatory prosecutions are "nonsense."
"I certainly have known Sheriff Munks for many years, but that's no basis to recuse my office," he said, adding that in the past he also had a friendly relationship with Mr. Lopez.
"To claim that somehow this is a political prosecution based on my friendship with the sheriff is something that comes out of fantasy land," Mr. Wagstaffe said. "It's not based in any fact."
Mr. Wagstaffe said Mr. Munks would not be a witness in the case and that he has no intention of prosecuting the case himself.
Mr. Lopez pleaded not guilty Wednesday to the new charges related to his finances and campaign for sheriff, prosecutors said.
Many of the charges stem from whether Mr. Lopez lived in Newark or Redwood City. He owned homes in both cities but prosecutors allege that Mr. Lopez continued to live in Newark while his fiancee, Evelyn Segura-Chavez, 34, lived in the Redwood City condo, where she operated a childcare facility, according to Mr. Wagstaffe.
The alleged fraud began in 2013, when Mr. Lopez, Ms. Segura-Chavez, and a county employee Mr. Lopez had met while working at the jail, 47-year-old Christopher John O'Dell, conspired to overestimate water damage to the Newark residence to bilk Mr. Lopez's insurance company out of thousands of dollars, according to a criminal complaint filed against the three defendants.
Then, in July 2013, Mr. Lopez set out to refinance the Redwood City condo, which required it to be his primary residence. He and Mr. O'Dell allegedly prepared false documents indicating Mr. Lopez was living in Redwood City and renting his Newark home to his cousin, according to the complaint. However, prosecutors allege Mr. Lopez continued to live in Newark.
Whether he lived in Redwood City or Newark would become an issue again the following year, when he declared his candidacy for sheriff and voted in a local election. Prosecutors allege he lied about his residency and was not legally eligible to do either.
While running for office, Mr. Lopez and Ms. Segura-Chavez, acting as his campaign treasurer, allegedly embezzled campaign funds for personal use, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors have charged Mr. Lopez with three counts of conspiracy, two counts of filing false documents, one count of fraud, two counts of perjury, one count of embezzlement and two counts of election fraud.
Mr. O'Dell is charged in two of the conspiracy counts. Ms. Segura-Chavez is charged with one count of conspiracy and one count of embezzlement.
All three defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges against them in the court of Judge Richard Livermore on Wednesday, Feb. 18. Mr. Lopez is out of custody on a $170,000 bail bond and Ms. Segura-Chavez and Mr. O'Dell are both free on a $10,000 bail bond.
They are scheduled to return to court March 6.
Mr. Lopez pleaded not guilty in December to two previous counts of conspiracy for allegedly allowing the two corrections officers to smuggle cellphones, oxycodone, alprazolam and ibuprofen to inmate Dionicio Lopez, a Hells Angels member accused of a shooting in Daly City in 2011. Prosecutors have said there is no known familial relationship between Juan Lopez and Dionicio Lopez.
Mr. Hanlon said he is still receiving evidence in both cases.