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Montebello's Missing Million Dollars Mystery

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By Kevin Mathews/Special to LAistHaving a large sum of money vanish is a great misfortune for any community, but it is especially difficult for a city already facing a massive budget deficit like Montebello. Nearly $1 million dollars, which was mysteriously placed in an off-the-record account at Union Bank, has now dwindled to just $5,000 with no explanation. Peter Costentini, the interim City Manager, told the LA Times that an investigation is under way.

Although all bank accounts should be documented officially in the city’s ledger and demonstrate a clear purpose, this million dollar account was kept off-the-books. Typically, Montebello’s treasurer would need to sign off on the bank account. In this case, former City Manager Richard Torres and two other as-yet-undisclosed names are attached to the account.

Unfortunately, this situation is hardly unique for the city. Only a month ago, Montebello uncovered a different off-the-books account holding a quarter of a million dollars. The account showed tens of thousands of dollars had been withdrawn, but it has not yet been determined by whom and for what purpose. Upset by the reoccurring apparent theft, Montebello City Councilmember Christina Cortez is calling for a citywide audit.