LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Two men were each sentenced to one year in jail Monday after being convicted of hundreds of counts of forgery and grand theft in a wide-ranging case of engineering fraud spanning seven Southern California counties.
Wilfrido Rodriguez, 48, and Reuben Gutierrez, 45, were found guilty in November of more than 200 counts each in the fraudulent scheme related to their work for an engineering firm in Rolling Hills Estates. In addition to one year in jail, the two were sentenced to five years of probation.
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s investigators say that between 2003 and 2014, Gutierrez and Rodriguez prepared fraudulent structural engineering plan set pages, structural observation reports and structural calculation sets in the name of their former employer, Palos Verdes Engineering. Rodriguez had worked as an engineering drafter and Gutierrez was an architectural designer at the firm, but neither were licensed architects or civil engineers, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
Palos Verdes Engineering is considered a victim in this crime, along with the more than 700 victims who had used Gutierrez and Rodriguez’s services for renovations and construction of their one- and two-story homes, duplexes, triplexes, and in some cases, commercial structures in more than 50 cities.
According to Deputy DA Jeffrey Stodel, Rodriguez could have faced more than 92 years in prison, while Gutierrez could have served up to 77 years.
The men forged the signature of one of the licensed engineers and owners of Palos Verdes Engineering, and used the victim’s engineering seal to trick homeowners and municipalities into believing the owner of the firm had personally drafted their design plans.
In November, the pair were criminally charged after the crimes were first reported by the owner of the firm in 2014.
Gutierrez’s attorney, Bill Seki, said that there were no allegations of any defects as a result of the engineering plans involved in the case.
“It’s an incredibly complicated case and I think the judge put a lot of thought into it,” Seki said outside court following the November conviction. “Despite her ruling, we believe there are legal issues we would like to address in an appeal.”
It is not clear yet whether he still plans to appeal.
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