Brea Councilman Steve Vargas Accused of Stealing $1570 Intended for Veterans’ Charity





[Cross-posted from “THE BREAN” — a side project that I started last December. This is the first story I’ve done there that I felt was shocking enough to post here as well — although I’m posting only the first four paragraphs. To get to some of the really good stuff, you’ll have to click this link!]

NOCVC landscape

The North Orange County Veterans Club on Brea Blvd. just north of the border with Fullerton.

Leaders of Brea’s Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5384 have accused Brea Councilmember Steve Vargas of ordering his employee Natalie Transport to deposit 14 checks that had been made out to their post into the bank account of the North Orange County Veterans’ Club (“NOCVC”), a private South Brea enterprise of which Vargas is Executive Officer.   Vargas is also a Naval Reservist.

VFW Post 5384 Commander Gary Colletti made an October presentation to employees of Manufacturer’s Bank, which had recently opened a new branch in Brea, about the Post, its Mission Statement, and its efforts to aid veterans in need.  Over a dozen employees then wrote personal checks totaling $1570 to donate to the VFW’s charitable efforts.  [N.B. Copies of the two checks may be viewed at the link, as can copies of the two demand letters sent by VFW Post leaders to Councilman Vargas.]  The checks are clearly made out to the VFW Post and are clearly stamped on the back as having been deposited instead to the NOCVC’s own bank account.

According to a public statement made at the February 17 Brea City Council meeting by VFW Post 5384 Adjutant Al Gutierrez, the post distributes 100% of all donated funds to veterans in need upon their request, helping them to pay for food, assisted living, rent or mortgages, transportation, and other medical and utility bills.  The money was contributed to the VFW Post with that understanding that it would all be used for direct aid to veterans.

The VFW Post was formerly a tenant within NOCVC, along with American Legion Post Brea Post 181.  The bank had had its employees’ charitable donations delivered to NOCVC on the belief that they remained located there.  A bank employee dropped off to Ms. Transport with the request to forward them to the VFW Post.  Instead, Vargas allegedly ordered Ms. Transport to deposit them into NOCVC’s own bank account at Banco Popular, where all three organizations keep their accounts.  As ordered, Ms. Transport deposited them all at once on December 15, 2014.

[Story continued at this link.]

About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-disabled and semi-retired, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally ran for office against jerks who otherwise would have gonr unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Corrupt party hacks hate him. He's OK with that too. He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.) His daughter is a professional campaign treasurer. He doesn't usually know whom she and her firm represent. Whether they do so never influences his endorsements or coverage. (He does have his own strong opinions.) But when he does check campaign finance forms, he is often happily surprised to learn that good candidates he respects often DO hire her firm. (Maybe bad ones are scared off by his relationship with her, but they needn't be.)