State holding onto millions of dollars for crime victims: $2M owed to SD victims

State system makes it tough to locate victims

SAN DIEGO - Team 10 discovered the state of California is holding onto millions of dollars owed to crime victims, and Troubleshooter Cristin Severance explains what's causing the delay.

Daniel Garcia's San Diego home was broken into in 2008, and he said burglars stole his gun, iPod, TV and thousands of dollars.

"It's very personal when you walk home and your door is wide open and you see everything missing and gone," said Garcia.

The small business owner and artist said some things were stolen that meant a little more than material items.

"I was an artist and had a lot of paintings and photographs and just things you can't replace those things," said Garcia.

A judge ordered restitution, but Garcia never thought he'd see the money until he got a phone call last month from the state Department of Corrections.

Team 10 was there as Garcia answered the phone and received the news he'd be paid $10,253.

"Well, I almost feel like, 'Chalk one up for the little guy,'" Garcia said with a laugh.

The state collects $400,000 a month -- money collected from criminals that is court-ordered to be paid to victims of crimes. However, most victims never get that phone call and never get paid the restitution their owed.

The state said county courts and district attorney's offices often don't forward contact information to the state office that collects restitution, or victims move and don't provide contact information.

"The biggest challenge is finding the victims because on the court documents it may come in as 'pay $2,000 to the victim.' Well, who's the victim? So you're flipping through these court documents, you can't find anything," said Michael Rogowski, with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's Unknown Victims Unit.

Right now, the state is holding $2 million for unknown victims in San Diego County, and last year, the state and county District Attorney's Office gave 406 victims nearly $500,000.

"It's very important to this office to serve crime victims as completely as we can and part of that making them whole again, restitution is a big part of that," said Cynthia Charlebois, chief of the county District Attorney's Office Victim Services Division.

The district attorney's office has five people working full time to find crime victims and said it will continue to help the state get more results like Garcia's.

Charlebois told Team 10 they do their best to get crime victims the money they deserve.

"Anything over a penny is a plus, right?" said Garcia.

If inmates owe restitution to their victims, the state collects half of what they earn in prison jobs and half of what family or friends contribute to their prison accounts.

If you are a crime victim and are awaiting restitution, call the San Diego County District Attorney's Office at 619-531-4041.


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