Oscar Picazo’s colleagues aren’t happy right now – and with good reason. On December 16, Picazo, former captain with the City of Lodi Fire Department and treasurer of the Lodi Professional Firefighters Union, was charged in San Joaquin County Superior Court with embezzling $297,000 from the union, also known as International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Local 1225. He waived his right to a preliminary hearing at his arraignment on December 22. The actions follow a City investigation. In a prepared statement, the union said: “The Lodi Professional Firefighters has been coping with the damage inflicted by (Picazo) for several months. The LPF was very disappointed to discover that Mr. Picazo violated the trust placed in him by the union.”
According to prosecutors, Picazo fleeced his union during January 2010-August 2016. News of the thefts surfaced after the City of Lodi this summer initiated an investigation at local union request; the state and international IAFF each had notified the local of its serious delinquency in forwarding dues collections. During the probe, Picazo, though not named as a suspect, resigned his City and union posts in September. The City then contacted the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office, which in turn hired a forensic auditor who concluded that $297,000 worth of unauthorized purchases and withdrawals had been made using union accounts. At that point, criminal charges were inevitable. A trial is set for January 17.