Contra Costa County

Ex-State Assemblyman Sentenced for Stealing Campaign Funds

Canciamilla pleaded guilty to nine counts of grand theft and perjury

Assembly members Joe Canciamilla, right, and Keith Richman, left
AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File

A former state assemblyman in California has been sentenced to a year in jail for using more than a quarter-million dollars of campaign funds on personal expenses and lying about it while he was elections chief for Contra Costa County.

Joe Canciamilla, 66, pleaded guilty to nine counts of grand theft and perjury for stealing $261,800 in campaign funds to pay for a vacation to Asia, meals at restaurants and a personal loan, among other personal expenditures, the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s office said Tuesday.

Canciamilla entered the plea Monday and was sentenced to a year in county jail as well as two years’ probation. The sheriff’s office will determine how the custody time will be served.

Due to his felony conviction, Canciamilla will not be able to act as an attorney and he will report his criminal conviction to the California State Bar. He will also not be allowed to hold any elected office, prosecutors said.

Canciamilla resigned as Contra Costa elections chief in October 2019. He was the youngest public official in state history when he was elected at age 17 to the Pittsburg school board. He later served on the Pittsburg City Council and the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors before winning three terms in the state Assembly as a Democrat in 2000.

In 2018, the Fair Political Practices Commission found Canciamilla violated campaign finance laws at least 30 times and falsified state filings to cover it up. The commission fined him $150,000.

Mike Rains, a lawyer for Canciamilla, said his client ultimately agreed to the plea deal to spare himself further humiliation and move on to enjoy his retirement.

“Why was any more pain and embarrassment necessary when he already paid this restitution?” Rains told the San Francisco Chronicle. “He just does not need to be spending thousands and thousands of dollars litigating this case at this point of his life, living on a fixed income.”

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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