Sheriff's Deputy Accused Of Embezzlement Pleads Not Guilty

A 19-year veteran of the San Diego County Sheriff's Department, who is accused of embezzling more than $16,000 from his homeowner's association, pleaded not guilty Monday to four felony charges.

Ronald Minoru Sakamoto, 44, faces one count of fraudulent appropriation by an administrator and three counts of grand theft.

"Over two years, he stole over $16,000," Deputy District Attorney Kristian Trocha told Judge Patricia Cookson.

As treasurer of a group of owners of seven Lake Murray Gardens homes, Sakamoto used the association's money to pay his mortgage, car payments and bills between June 20, 2005, and Feb. 6 of this year, Trocha alleged.

Defense attorney Ward Clay said he has not reviewed the evidence, but after talking with his client, he believes the case is a "misunderstanding."

"It's hard to believe we're in criminal court on this," Clay said.

Sakamoto, a patrolman in Santee who formerly worked in the county courts, is on unpaid leave, his lawyer said.

The judge set bail at $30,000 and scheduled a preliminary hearing for March 26. The defendant faces five years in prison if convicted.

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