San Mateo college IT director pleads no contest to stealing and selling computer equipment
Mar 01, 2013 (Palo Alto Daily News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
The former director of tech support services for the San Mateo County Community College District, who was arrested last year for stealing more than $150,000 worth of computer equipment, pleaded no contest Wednesday to four felony charges, including forgery and embezzlement.
San Mateo resident Bradley John Witham, 43, faces up to five years in state prison for his crimes, according to San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe.
Meanwhile, Mark Anthony Bustos, 42, another tech support employee who prosecutors said acted as an accomplice, pleaded no contest Wednesday to one felony count of identity theft; he was immediately sentenced to 90 days in jail and three years' probation.
Witham, who earned about $100,000 a year, used the district's credit card to make dozens of online purchases of computers, software, hard drives, memory sticks and other items over a six-year period and resold them for profit through websites including eBay and Craigslist, according to the District Attorney's Office. Witham also submitted forged receipts for two iPhones.
The crimes were discovered shortly after the start of the current school year when a district employee noticed some unauthorized transactions, according to an email district Chancellor Ron Galatolo sent to staff in October. The college alerted the San Mateo Police Department.
Bustos, of San Mateo, learned of the investigation after hacking into the vice chancellor's email and tipped
off Witham, according to prosecutors. Witham fled to Australia, but returned to the United States following negotiations between the district attorney's office and his lawyer. He was arrested on Sept. 27 and Bustos on Oct. 10.
In San Mateo County Superior Court on Wednesday, Witham pleaded no contest to three counts of felony forgery of documents and one felony count of embezzlement of public funds by a public official.
Witham's attorney, Stuart Hanlon, said his client is an Australian native married to an American citizen. He said the thefts started small and "snowballed."
Witham plans to make restitution by cashing out his 401(k) retirement savings, Hanlon said, adding that he hopes the judge gives his client less time behind bars than the maximum five years.
"He'll be destitute, he'll be deported and his marriage will suffer," Hanlon said.
Witham remains in custody on $1 million bail and is scheduled to be sentenced on March 21 at 8:45 a.m.
The San Mateo County Community College District includes Canada College in Redwood City, College of San Mateo and Skyline College in San Bruno.
Bonnie Eslinger at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow her at twitter.com/bonnieeslinger.
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