Chris Ball is experiencing first hand how slowly the wheels of justice turn, and he isn’t happy about it.
Ball, who last year filed a lawsuit alleging his bookkeeper misappropriated, embezzled, converted and/or diverted $1,586,732.06 going back to 2006, wants Neilla Cenci thrown in prison for it. Cenci remains free, and Ball said she declared bankruptcy once she was caught (a call to Cenci went unreturned).
Ball has petitioned the county district attorney’s office to get things moving, and he isn’t happy about the speed. He has taken the tact that the more annoying he can be, the more likely the case will be handled just to make him go away.
“I’m really good at throwing hand grenades. I’m really not good at persuasion,” he said. “When it comes to dealing with institutions, that’s the only way I know how.”
To that end, Ball filed a public records request seeking, among other things, various records and memoranda related to District Attorney Jackie Lacey using the phrase “Justice Delayed is Justice Denied;” and the overtime and disciplinary records of Deputy DA Adewale Oduye, who’s handling Ball’s case.
Ball admitted he’s not the least bit interested in what’s found. He just wants to light a fire under Lacey and her staff.
“If she has gone out, got herself elected by promising swift execution of justice, then I’m here to tell you that that is not happening,” Ball said. “My Public Records Act request is the only mechanism I can think of that will force the top management at the district attorney’s office to pay attention to my case. … I want the district attorney to get pissed off and say, ‘Look, I don’t need this s***. Go ahead and prosecute this case.’ That’s what this is about.”
Cenci was arrested September 6th in connection with pilfering $37,755.48 that an IRS audit of Ball’s construction company revealed. An arrest report from the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Department showed she was granted $20,000 bail. No charges were filed; instead, Det. Robert Morris of the Sheriff’s fraud and cyber crimes bureau investigated, executed search warrants and found more than 1,000 checks totaling almost $1.5 million deposited mostly into five banks or credit-card companies: Visa, Discover, Wells Fargo, Citibank and Bank of America.
Morris submitted his findings to the DA. Public Information Officer Paul Eakins and said the office got the case April 24th.
Ball received an email June 24th from Oduye saying he had been assigned the case.
That didn’t sit well with Ball.
“Detective Morris built your case with bank search warrants and told me in March that he had proof from the thief’s bank records and from my bank records that she had stolen over a million dollars,” Ball wrote in an email to Oduye the same day. “April, May and June have now gone by. That’s 90 days that your office has done NOTHING. That’s 90 days the embezzling thief can hide the stolen money or plan her escape. That’s 90 days she has enjoyed her freedom.”
Oduye responded with a request to meet. Ball wrote back, “I do not need to meet with you, and I have no questions for you, except one: What will it take to get urgent action from your office?”
Ball explained that his civil matters – suing the banks and merchants that laundered the stolen money and getting Cenci’s bankruptcy overturned – are strengthened if Cenci is arrested again. Also, the theft-insurance company won’t pay out until there is an arrest, he said.
On June 28th, Oduye responded that civil litigation carries no weight and that he must evaluate the case to determine if he could prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. He said he would meet with Morris, and Morris confirmed to the Gazette that the two had met.
“Although I cannot make any promises, I do hope to come to a filing decision within the next 6 months,” Oduye wrote.
That didn’t sit well with Ball, either. He responded by attaching the state’s victims’ rights laws that, among other things, call for “expeditious enforcement” and “expeditious disposition” and that a victim is entitled “to a speedy trial.”
“The success of my civil case and the recovery of stolen assets are dependent on your prompt action,” Ball wrote on June 29th. “My civil case is directly relevant to your statutory duties. Ignore that at your own peril.”
“He’s taking a lazy approach, and I’m not accepting it,” Ball said.
Ball added he doesn’t have time to try and meet with Lacey to put a face to the case. Nor does he care if his actions tip off Cenci.
“The detective is just as frustrated as I am,” Ball said.
Morris said Ball’s actions have “kind of got the ball rolling much better.” But he knows how slow things move.
“That’s just part of the program,” Morris said. “I get frustrated sometimes with how it works because the system is bogged down. The DA has to work at the pace they’re given. They work with the parameters they have. They’re short bodies, they have a heavy caseload, and they have to work by statute. Sometimes, the general public doesn’t understand. They think it needs to go faster, but its part of the process.”
If Ball had his way, the process would resemble what’s seen in Hollywood: full justice in an hour.
Instead, wife Krissy Ball said, “Nothing is happening, and it’s driving us insane.”