General Crime

* Cole Hardware Store in San Francisco Pleads Guilty to Charges of Grand Theft Procurement Scam

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A San Francisco hardware store has pleaded guilty to felony charges stemming from a procurement scam to defraud the city’s Public Utilities Commission, District Attorney George Gascon announced Monday. Cole Hardware, a store with four locations around San Francisco, pleaded guilty Friday to charges of grand theft and forged requests for payment for defrauding the city’s vendor procurement system between April 2003 and October 2007, prosecutors said.

In exchange for its guilty plea, the company will pay $51,544 to the SFPUC, as well as various fines and fees.Cole Hardware was one of two vendors working with Donnie Alan Thomas, a former SFPUC supervisor who pleaded guilty last September to four felony counts for embezzling $319,000 from the city, according to the district attorney’s office.

Thomas supervised an SFPUC Hetch/Hetchy high-voltage power crew based on Treasure Island that worked on private electrical contracts through his company Tri-Delta Electric Inc. while on SFPUC time, and used city money to buy goods from Cole Hardware and the other vendor, Centennial Distributors Inc., for personal use, prosecutors said.According to the district attorney’s office, employees at the two vendors knowingly submitted invoices to the SFPUC with false descriptions of items purchased, allowing Thomas to conceal that he was buying items for personal benefit, including cellphones, stereos and sunglasses.

Six other co-defendants in the case have also pleaded guilty to various charges — Thomas, Jean Quiroz, Centennial Distributors Inc., John Rauch, Robert Mazariegos and Vincent Padilla. Three other co-defendants — Tri-Delta Electric, Miles Bonner, an SFPUC employee who worked in Thomas’ crew, and Elizabeth Bradford, a former Cole Hardware employee — have pleaded not guilty and are awaiting their preliminary hearing, prosecutors said. Gascon joined SFPUC General Manager Ed Harrington to announce Cole Hardware’s guilty plea at a news conference at the San Francisco Hall of Justice on Monday.

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