Orange County District Attorney
Tony Rackauckas, District Attorney
401 Civic Center Drive West
Santa Ana, CA 92701
For Immediate Release
July 31, 2009
Susan Kang Schroeder
COSTA MESA MAN CHARGED WITH STEALING $35,000 FROM NON-PROFIT BY DEFRAUDING CHARITY RAFFLE
NEWPORT BEACH – A Costa Mesa man has been charged with stealing almost $35,000 from a drug rehabilitation non-profit corporation by promising to purchase and fix up a high-end car to be raffled as a charity fundraiser. Steven John Lafata, 59, is charged with three felony counts of grand theft, one felony count of second degree commercial burglary, and one felony count of perjury by declaration. He faces a maximum sentence of four years and four months in state prison if convicted. Lafata is being held on $36,000 bail and must prove the money is from a legal and legitimate source before posting bail. Lafata is scheduled for a pre-trial hearing on Aug. 5, 2009, at 9:00 a.m., in Department H-1, Harbor Justice Center, Newport Beach.
New Directions for Women (NDW) is a Costa Mesa non-profit organization that provides drug and alcohol rehabilitation services for women, including pregnant women and mothers. Lafata is accused of offering to help NDW raise money by providing them with a high end car for a charity raffle.
Between January and April 2007, Lafata is accused of promising to purchase a 1988 Ford Mustang Cobra prototype for NDW. He is accused of claiming he could purchase and restore the car to collector quality for $35,000 and raffle it at a value between $65,000 and $75,000. He is accused of instead purchasing a 1989 Ford Mustang, appraised at $8,300, and performing minimal work on the car.
After purchasing the vehicle, Lafata is accused of filing false information with the State of California regarding the purchase price of the car, claiming it only cost $750 in order to avoid Department of Motor Vehicle registration fees.
The charity raffle winner went to pick up the vehicle from Lafata and reported to NDW, complaining that the car was not the promised car or the quality that had been represented for the fundraiser. NDW reported the theft to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.
Deputy District Attorney Yvette Patko of the Major Fraud Unit is prosecuting this case.