Police officers are supposed to be arresting thieves, not behaving like them. Gene Tomatani appears to have not gotten that memo. On December 9, Sgt. Tomatani, the former president of the Redondo Beach Police Officers Association, was charged in Los Angeles County Superior Court with embezzling more than $70,000 from his union and another $3,000 from the municipality. He resigned from the local police force this October pending administrative hearings, after having stepped down from his union post in November 2008. Released on his own recognizance, he’s set for arraignment on January 8.
Tomatani, 40, was a busy cop. He ran the Special Investigations Unit for Redondo Beach, California, a community of more than 60,000 people located along the Pacific Ocean south of L.A. International Airport. In addition, he served as president of his union, the Redondo Beach Police Officers Association, with nearly 100 dues-paying members. Unfortunately, he also was an embezzler. The association last year had reason to believe anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000 was missing from its coffers. The District Attorney’s Justice System Integrity Division conducted a year-long probe, concluding the exact shortfall was $72,388.56, taken in increments of $1,000 to $3,000 during May 2004-May 2008. Investigators determined the guilty culprit was Tomatani, whom they also accused of embezzling $3,000 from the City of Redondo Beach. He eventually resigned, first from the union and then from the police force.
A guilty plea is all but certain, noted Deputy District Attorney Paul Nunez. “He (Tomatani) is being cooperative and I think within the next two court dates, a plea will be negotiated,” said Nunez. If convicted, Tomatani faces up to four years in state prison. On the plus side for leniency, he did return $12,000 to the police officers association. “He’s taking responsibility for his actions,” said his attorney, Vicki Podberesky. “We’ve worked hard to get an early resolution in this case.”