A preliminary hearing is scheduled today for an ex-Marine accused of embezzling more than $133,000 from a Palm Desert-based Marine scholarship fund.
Jason Patrick Hitt, 35, of Pomona, allegedly embezzled from U.S. Marine
Scholarships of the Desert Cities Inc., a nonprofit that awards scholarships to
current and former Marines in the area, while serving as the group's president.
He is also accused of forging a $6,000 check.
The preliminary hearing will determine if there is enough evidence for Hitt to proceed to trial.
Hitt initially pleaded guilty in March, as a preliminary hearing was
about to begin at the Larson Justice Center in Indio. He withdrew the guilty
plea in May, as his sentencing hearing was getting under way.
Hitt, who volunteered to be president of the group in 2009, initially was suspected of stealing about $200,000 from the fund, Riverside Countysheriff's Sgt. Dave Florez said. He was arrested in Chino Hills on Oct. 6 at the Best Buy store where he worked.
Hitt allegedly wrote checks drawn on the scholarship fund's Citibank account to his then-fiancee and co-mingled the funds with her business accounts, according to a declaration in support of arrest warrant. Eventually, Hitt started dating other women and allegedly spending the scholarship money on
jewelry, school fees, hairstyle and rent for them.
At a meeting of the group's board, Hitt "stole one of the original USMS
checks from the back of the USMS checkbook when (the board member) left the
room for a moment,'' the document alleges. "Hitt then forged (the board
member's) signature on the check and deposited it to the Citibank account which he controlled.''
When the check did not clear, the bank began monitoring the account,
then closed it. But Hitt "continued to drain (it) ... to a negative status,''
the document alleges.
A private investigator hired by Hitt's fiancee told the scholarship board something fishy was going on, according to the Sheriff's Department.