Closing arguments begin in Fernando Vargas business manager trial [Ventura County Star, Calif.]
(Ventura County Star (CA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Aug. 16--Prosecutors say Joe Pecora took advantage of a very rich young man who was financially unsophisticated.
In closing arguments in Pecora's trial, prosecutor Howard Wise said Thursday that Pecora did not just take advantage of former Oxnard professional boxer Fernando Vargas while Pecora was Vargas' business manager.
Pecora is accused of embezzling about $400,000 from Vargas.
Pecora purposely hid his own income and avoided paying taxes, Wise said.
"The young man trusted the older man, and the older man steals from the younger man," Wise said.
Pecora, 57, of Camarillo, faces two grand-theft charges and four counts of tax evasion. Prosecutors allege he forged and cashed checks for what Vargas thought were legitimate business costs.
Pecora, who took the stand Thursday, said Vargas authorized him to cash checks as reimbursement for "paying off" Colonia Chiques gang members.
But Wise, in his closing statement, said evidence showed Pecora hid his own income by putting checks in a bank account in the name of his daughter Christina. While Christina Pecora testified her father deposited $1,000 to $1,500 into their joint account, he actually deposited $6,500 in checks, Wise said.
Wise said Christina Pecora and other family members who testified during the trial "came in with a blind loyalty" for the defendant.
Wise also said Pecora's testimony that Vargas accountant Martin Marrietta automatically deducted a portion of Pecora's biweekly salary is "bunk."
"Does it make sense that Marty would put his license at risk?" Wise said. "I suggest that when you look at all of the evidence, it's either put up or shut up. The corroborating evidence versus the lack of any corroborating evidence from the defense ... shows that the Martin Marrietta story ain't true."
Wise said Pecora tried to further hide his earnings by keeping his name out of the Ferocious Inc. workers compensation list and was not listed as an employee. Ferocious Inc. is Vargas' company.
Wise also said Pecora failed to file tax returns between 2007 to 2011 and showed jurors a letter from the California Franchise Tax Board.
Before closing arguments began Thursday afternoon, Pecora took the stand one last time and testified that Vargas instructed him to give cash to Colonia Chiques gang members.
Defense attorney Matt Bromund asked about a fight between Vargas and Joe Ezequiel Cortez in 2002. According to an Oxnard police report, the former fighter was involved in an altercation with Cortez, who went to Vargas' home for a "business discussion" and ended up with a broken jaw. Pecora testified Thursday Vargas also was stabbed in the leg. No one was arrested. Bromund said Cortez was a Colonia Chiques member, one of many who allegedly had been extorting money from Vargas for years.
Pecora said he used code words such as UCLA or CRC on checks to indicate payments to gang members.
Closing arguments will continue Friday.
(c)2013 Ventura County Star (Camarillo, Calif.)
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