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Former clerk-recorder pleads guilty to campaign finance theft, perjury

Former Contra Costa County Clerk-Recorder Joe Canciamilla has pleaded guilty to nine counts of grand theft and perjury for using election campaign accounts for personal reasons like paying off a loan and going on an overseas trip, county prosecutors announced Tuesday.

Canciamilla entered the plea Monday and will serve 365 days in county jail as well as two years’ probation, according to the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office.

A longtime politician in the county with history as a Pittsburg City Council member, a county supervisor and state Assembly member before being appointed as county clerk/recorder in 2013 and subsequently winning election, Canciamilla resigned from that post in 2019.

Shortly afterward, he agreed to pay $150,000 to the California Fair Political Practices Commission, admitting to spending campaign funds on personal expenses like travel to Asia, restaurant meals, airfare, repayment of a personal loan and transfers to his personal bank accounts.

The District Attorney’s Office in June 2020 charged Canciamilla with 30 counts of perjury for making misstatements on campaign disclosure forms as well as four counts of grand theft for using the campaign funds for personal expenses from 2010 to 2016.

As part of his guilty plea, he will not be able to hold public office or act as an attorney, prosecutors said.

Canciamilla’s attorney Michael Rains said Tuesday that his client plans to apply to serve his sentence via home detention and electronic monitoring, and that Canciamilla thought it was best to resolve the case before going to trial.

Rains said:

“When we weighed the amount of time it would’ve taken to litigate the case and the amount of money he’d have to spend — he’s now retired of course — it just didn’t make sense.”

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