Paul De La Cerda Fired, offer extended by DA Office

By Juan Calvillo

Dismissed East Los Angeles College Dean Paul De La Cerda, who is accused of felony embezzlement while working at ELAC, is now dismissed from Cabrillo College. De La Cerda was Vice President of Instruction at Cabrillo College before his dismissal. The governing board for Cabrillo College decided to no longer employ De La Cerda at its Feb. 7 meeting.

On Feb 17 the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office offered his defense team a resolution to his pending felony case. De La Cerda is accused of two counts of embezzlement by the district attorney’s office. The offenses occurred while he was dean at  the ELAC Foundation. 

De La Cerda was under investigation by the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department’s fraud and cyber crimes division. He was dismissed from the Los Angeles Community College District in March of last year. De La Cerda was hired at Cabrillo College after his dismissal from the LACCD. He was charged on Dec 9 by the District Attorney’s office.

De La Cerda’s defense attorney appeared online for the hearing at the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center in Downtown Los Angeles Feb. 17. Judge Kerry L. White set the preliminary hearing date for April 11. 

Matthew Wetstein, President of Cabrillo College, said De La Cerda will remain on leave until his contract expires at the end of June. He said the board acted on his recommendation to no longer employ De La Cerda. He said that was all he could comment on.

“This is a personnel matter. I cannot provide any other comments,” Wetstein said.

He said De La Cerda left the LACCD to take a position at Cabrillo College. De La Cerda was dismissed from the LACCD in March of last year. In a previous interview with Campus News Wetstein said he and the board at Cabrillo College knew of De La Cerda’s situation.

“The circumstances of Paul’s departure from East Los Angeles College were known to me and our board of trustees,” Wetstein said.

Steve Trujillo said the governing board at Cabrillo College only hires for the position of college president. Trujillo, the board trustee from area seven which covers Monterey County, said the board does no other hiring. Trujillo said he abstained from voting when the board voted on not offering further employment to De La Cerda.

“I was the only trustee to do so. I felt I did not have enough info to make a decision,” Trujillo said.

Deputy District Attorney Casey Higgins said De La Cerda was offered to resolve his case, but could not give the specifics of the offer. He said there is typically a back-and-forth when it comes to accepting an offer like this and that offers don’t typically come with a set time for the defense to accept them. 

Higgins said some people will want to take responsibility, others use the time from when an offer is made to review evidence that is disclosed through discovery. He said there are many factors as to why an offer from the district attorney’s office is made.

“An offer typically involves a consideration of the defendant’s criminal history or lack thereof. Whether the crime involved violence, involved a vulnerable victim, [or] involved a substantial loss. [Also taken into consideration is] the defendant’s likelihood of reoffending, the defendant’s acceptance of responsibility, the gravamen of the offense, and mitigation (if any),” Higgins said.

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