Condiment Caper Comes to an End

Ketchup theft leads to probation for ex-OC official

Former Orange Unified School District trustee Steve Rocco has been known to rant about conspiracies out to get him.

On Tuesday, it appears the conspiracy finally won.

Rocco was placed on two years informal probation, fined about $200 and ordered to stay at least 100 yards from Chapman University property.

His crime: condiment theft.

Rocco, 58, was convicted April 16 of stealing a 14-ounce bottle of Heinz 57 from an outdoor eating area at Chapman University on Sept. 27.

Rocco said no physical evidence of theft was presented at trial. He also said one of the female jurors was a neighbor of one of the investigators who testified in the case.

"This was a scam from day one," Rocco said outside court.

"To quote Fred Smollar: I would like this to go away quietly, but that's not going to happen," he said.

Rocco isn't your traditional representative, according to

"In November of 2004, Steve Rocco, then 53, was elected to its seven-member Board of Trustees, despite the fact that he never attended a school board meeting, raised money, actively campaigned or attended any candidate forums. He was unknown to the district and only barely known to his neighbors, a recluse who lived with his elderly parents.

"On Aug. 2, 2004, Mr. Rocco rode his bicycle down to the Registrar of Voters, where he filled out a single page form, the only requirement to become a school board candidate. He listed his occupation as teacher, although he was unemployed and had not taught for more than 20 years. His opponent, Phil Martinez, had three kids in the district and was a PTA president. His ballot designation was 'park ranger.' When most voters got down to the end of the lengthy ballot, they chose Rocco the 'teacher' over Martinez the 'park ranger.' Rocco won with 54 percent of the vote."

His term was plagued by rants about "the partnership" conspiring against him.

"Parents complained he wasted time with conspiracy speeches, depriving children in the district of the time and attention that the issues required. A recall bid was started in 2007, but Rocco lost his seat when trustees redrew his district's boundary lines," City News Service reported.

Sentencing judge Jacki Brown said that Rocco was arrested twice in the '80s for petty theft. He was acquitted in one case and convicted in the other. Rocco claimed that also was the result of a conspiracy.

Rocco has vowed to appeal the sentence.

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