Chino man surrenders on charges of stealing $500,000 from La Puente

Tania Chatila, Staff Writer
Created: 07/27/2009 11:48:28 AM PDT

LA PUENTE - A former sheriff's deputy accused of stealing a half-million dollars in towing fees from the city has surrendered to authorities.

The grand jury last week indicted Joe Dyer, 53, of Chino on charges of grand theft, embezzlement, crimes by a public officer, and five counts of filing false tax reports, said Steve Whitmore, spokesman for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

Dyer's wife, Lydia Dyer, also was indicted on five counts of filing false tax reports based on arguments she knew about the alleged stolen money that went unreported on the couple's joint tax returns, officials said.

The Chino couple surrendered to investigators with the sheriff's Internal Criminal Investigations Bureau on Friday morning at the sheriff's East Los Angeles station, Whitmore said.

They then pleaded not guilty to the charges in Los Angeles Superior Court, said Alan Baum, who is representing the Dyers.

Joe Dyer was released on $100,000 bail posted by his father, Baum said.

Lydia Dyer was released on her own recognizance.

Both are due back in court on Aug. 11.

Baum said the indictment listed 32 witnesses and that much of the discovery material in the case included financial records. A transcript of the grand jury report will be available in about 10 days, he said.

"The Sheriff's Department was extremely cooperative in scheduling the appearance for giving Mr. and Mrs. Dyer the opportunity to surrender
rather than being arrested," Baum said. "I thought it was extremely fair and appropriate. They certainly weren't flight risks."

The sheriff's ICIB had been investigating Dyer - a former traffic sergeant from the sheriff's Industry Station - since the beginning of 2008 in connection with the missing money.

The Sheriff's Department served a search warrant on Dyer's Chino home in June 2008, the same day Dyer was relieved of duty without pay.

A day later, he retired.

Officials said they believe Dyer was collecting towing fees intended for La Puente but did not turn over all of those fees to the city.

La Puente is supposed to receive $168 each time a car is impounded within city limits.

That fee is paid to the Industry Station, which issues a receipt that the driver must provide to reclaim his or her vehicle at La Puente-based Haddick's towing company. The driver then pays a separate fee to Haddick's and the car is released.

Storing has said officials believe Dyer was only dropping off a portion of those fees and receipts at City Hall, which were not reconciled with Haddick's records.

Baum has maintained Dyer's innocence, and questioned the Sheriff's Department's system for collecting towing fees.

"The whole process was kind of loosey-goosey, the way records were kept," Baum said. "There was easy access. A lot of deputies had access to the cash box and the process."

Whitmore said the Sheriff's Department is hoping to implement an ATM-like system in all of its stations by the end of year.

In December, La Puente filed a claim against Los Angeles County alleging $501,747.91 was taken between 2001 to 2007. The claim blamed the county and the Sheriff's Department for failing "to properly supervise" personnel.

Roger Granbo, assistant county council, said the county never responded to the claim, which means - by law - it was denied after 45 days of submission.

The statute of limitations gives La Puente two years from the date officials found out about the alleged theft to file suit, Granbo said.

Dyer worked for the Sheriff's Department for 29 years. He supervised many of the Industry Station's impound programs, according to information from the Sheriff's Department and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

According to court records filed in 1997, when Dyer divorced his then-wife Audrey Christina Dyer, the couple shared $245,800 in assets.

Among them was their Chino home valued at $184,000, a 1993 Chevrolet Suburban valued at $19,000, a 1993 Sea-Doo watercraft valued at $3,500 and a property in South Lake Tahoe valued at $38,000.

Chino man surrenders on charges of stealing $500,000 from La Puente -