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Criminal charges were filed against Imperial County Auditor-Controller Josue Mercado, who now stands accused of misappropriation of funds. The announcement came Wednesday, March 17. Mercado was censured by the Imperial County Board of Supervisors on Dec. 22 for failure to do his job on two occasions. | COURTESY IMAGES

DA’s Office Files Charges Against Auditor Josue Mercado

EL CENTRO — Two criminal charges have been filed against elected Imperial County Auditor-Controller Josue Guadalupe Mercado for alleged misappropriation of public funds, according to a press release from the county District Attorney’s Office on Wednesday, March 17.

The charges include a felony count of misappropriation of public funds and a misdemeanor count of willfully disobeying a court order, the DA’s Office stated in the release.

The charges allege that Mercado “abused his position as the elected Imperial County Auditor to circumvent a Family Court order garnishing his own wages,” the press release stated.

The charges stem from incidents that allegedly occurred on or about Oct. 29, the DA’s Office reported.

If convicted, Mercado faces up to a maximum of four years in state prison for the felony count, while the misdemeanor count carries with it a maximum sentence of a year in county jail.

The charges announced Wednesday are the only charges that the DA’s Office has filed in the county Superior Court against Mercado, said Assistant DA Heather Trapnell.

Mercado is scheduled to be arraigned at 2 p.m. April 16 at the Brawley courthouse’s West Department.

Throughout the allegations made against him by county officials, this newspaper has sought various avenues to speak with Mercado and hear his side. He has not been able to be reached.

The charges stem from an investigation by the county Sheriff’s Office, which submitted its criminal case to the DA’s Office in mid-December, a sheriff’s official previously told this newspaper.

The Sheriff’s Office had been approached on Nov. 17 by county Executive Officer Tony Rouhotas Jr., and personnel from the county’s Human Resources and County Counsel departments about potential criminal misconduct performed by Mercado, according to a previous statement from sheriff’s Chief Deputy Robert Benavidez.

In December, Mercado was formally censured by the county Board of Supervisors in a 4-0 vote for his failure to respond to representatives of a bond-rating company and failure to file the county’s adopted budget with the state.

In February, the Board of Supervisors also voted to refer its censure against Mercado to the Imperial County grand jury for a possible investigation.

Mercado was elected as auditor-controller in June 2018 and does not face a potential removal from public office because of the censure, a county official previously stated.

The County Executive Office has since worked with auditor-controller department staff to get the necessary information to the bond-rating company and to file the county’s budget with the state controller’s office.