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Press Release

Former Assistant Superintendent and Former IT Director of Patterson Joint Unified School District Plead Guilty to $1 Million Embezzlement Scheme

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of California

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Jeffrey Menge, 43, of Copperopolis, and Eric Drabert, 44, of Modesto, pleaded guilty today to theft concerning programs receiving federal funds, U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.

According to court documents, from 2018 to 2022, Menge served as the Assistant Superintendent and Chief Business Officer of Patterson Joint Unified School District. In approximately 2020, Menge hired Drabert to serve as IT Director for the school district. Menge and Drabert conducted schemes to embezzle money from the school district. Among other things, they used CenCal Tech LLC, a Nevada company that Menge controlled, to carry out the scheme. Menge was limited in his ability to conduct interested party transactions with the school district, so he created a fictitious person, “Frank Barnes,” to serve as an executive for CenCal Tech. Menge and Drabert then used CenCal Tech to conduct more than $1.2 million in fraudulent transactions with the school district. The transactions involved double billing, over billing, and billing for items not delivered by CenCal Tech to the school district.

According to court documents, Menge and Drabert stole in additional ways as well. For example, they purchased high-end graphics cards and used those cards, together with other school district property and electricity, to operate a cryptocurrency “mining” farm at the school district. They then transferred the mined cryptocurrency to wallets under their own personal control. Menge also misused vehicles owned by the school district, including buying a Chevy truck at below-market value and selling it for a profit, and using a Ford Transit van as his own personal vehicle.

In total, Menge embezzled between $1 million and $1.5 million and Drabert stole between $250,000 and $300,000 during the scheme. Menge used stolen funds to remodel his home, to purchase luxury cars, including a Ferrari sports car, and for other personal uses. Drabert used stolen funds to remodel his vacation cabin, among other uses.

This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation with assistance from the Stanislaus County District Attorney Bureau of Investigation and the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey A. Spivak is prosecuting the case.

Menge and Drabert are scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Troy L. Nunley on May 30, 2024. Menge and Drabert each face a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The actual sentences, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.

Updated February 1, 2024

Financial Fraud