Local News

Friday, Mar 21 2014 04:01 PM

Search warrant alleges former treasurer stole from CHP nonprofit

BY JASON KOTOWSKI Californian staff writer jkotowski@bakersfield.com

The former treasurer of The California Highway Patrolman's Club of Kern County is under investigation for allegedly misappropriating club funds for items including auto parts, NASCAR race tickets and men's cycling shorts.

Michael Kochanski made several unauthorized transactions on the nonprofit's bank account from Feb. 3, 2010, to Oct. 21, 2013, according to a search warrant filed in court by Kern County sheriff's detectives. A member of the club's board of directors discovered the purchases and brought them to detectives' attention in December of last year.

The CHP's local spokesman could not be reached, either.

Kochanski could not be reached for comment Friday. A Michael Kochanski was listed as a CHP officer in a 2006 Californian article, but his current status could not be ascertained.

The search warrant says the board member provided detectives with numerous bank statements and transaction reports showing the purchases were made in Kochanski's name and delivered to his home in the 3600 block of Earnhardt Drive in northeast Bakersfield. None of the expenditures was for the club or reported at the board's monthly meeting, as required by club by-laws.

The items purchased include tow straps, fishing line, NASCAR tickets, cycling shorts and car parts such as a sway bar for a Chevrolet Nova. The board member told detectives Kochanski is in the process of restoring a 1974 Nova, according to the search warrant.

One of the bank statements showed a $200 withdrawal from an ATM in Garden Grove. The search warrant says the board member told detectives the club had no business there that would have required a withdrawal.

But Kochanski and his wife, Tracy, traveled to Disneyland at about the time the withdrawal was made, according to the search warrant. Tracy Kochanski posted Facebook comments about eating in Disneyland's Blue Bayou restaurant, and waiting in line for the Toy Story ride.

Garden Grove is near Disneyland's Anaheim location.

The club, also known as the 420 Club, issued Kochanski a laptop with which to keep records of club finances as part of his job as treasurer. He was told by board members that he would no longer be treasurer and needed to return the laptop, the search warrant says.

When Kochanski returned the computer, most of the records it contained had been erased. The search warrant says a "wiping" program had been installed on the computer's thumb drive, destroying the data it contained.

Sheriff's spokesman Ray Pruitt said the investigation is ongoing.

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