Ex-agency official sentenced for stealing money related to San Ramon development

Judge imposes prison term of 1 year and 1 day for embezzlement of bond funds

A former finance official with the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) was sentenced in federal court in San Francisco last week to one year and one day in prison for a fraud in which he admitted embezzling nearly $3.9 million in bond funds, including money related to San Ramon's Windemere Ranch development.

Clarke Howatt, 56, now of Portland, Ore., was given the prison term Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer, who also ordered him to spend six months in home confinement after release from prison.

Howatt, who used to live in Oakland, was formerly a financial services director in charge of bonds issued by an ABAG affiliate, the ABAG Finance Authority for Nonprofit Corporations, known as FAN. ABAG, based in Oakland, is a regional planning agency for nine Bay Area counties.

Howatt pleaded guilty before Breyer in December to one count of wire fraud in the electronic transfer of $1.3 million in stolen funds, and at the same time admitted to other thefts bringing the total amount embezzled to nearly $3.9 million between June 2011 and January 2015.

The stolen bond proceeds were related to the Windemere Ranch housing development in San Ramon and the Rincon Hill highrise development in the South of Market District of San Francisco. As part of his plea, Howatt admitted stealing nearly $2.6 million related to the San Ramon housing development.

The funds were intended to be used for public works such as streets, sidewalks and schools to offset the impacts of building developments.

At the time of his guilty plea, Howatt and his parents had repaid ABAG about $3.5 million and the agency was satisfied with that amount of restitution, according to court filings.

The maximum possible sentence for the fraud conviction was 20 years.

In a sentencing brief asking for leniency, defense attorney Mary McNamara said Howatt was "deeply remorseful" and had suffered from manic phases of a bipolar disorder that was not treated with appropriate medication.

Prosecutors in an opposing brief unsuccessfully asked for a heavier sentence of three years and three months in prison.

They wrote that Howatt deserved credit for cooperating in the investigation and seeking to pay restitution, but argued that despite any medical problems, his conduct showed "concerted and coordinated steps to achieve his goals" in the embezzlement over three and a half years.

— Bay City News Service

What is democracy worth to you?
Support local journalism.


24 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of San Ramon
on Mar 29, 2016 at 7:49 am

What an amazing country we live in. You steal $3.9m, pay back $3.5m and only spend one year in jail. I bet if you asked people if they would do 1 year in jail for $400k, the answer would be an overwhelming heck yes. 99% of the world doesn't make 400k a year, and this guy does it by stealing. when you do a crime, shouldn't the punishment hurt just a little?

12 people like this
Posted by Westerner
a resident of San Ramon
on Mar 29, 2016 at 9:34 am

ABAG needs to be disbanded. They interfere in decisions made by local governments with their mandates, they don't keep control of their finances, and they are political appointees.

Like this comment
Posted by James Von Halle
a resident of San Ramon
on Mar 29, 2016 at 2:16 pm

In a civilized society Mr. Howatt would have been put to the wall3

2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of San Ramon
on Mar 29, 2016 at 7:55 pm

AGAG is a group of unelected appointees with imperious attitudes that "know what is best" for us whether we like it or not; kind of reminds a one of the old soviet union. We all know what happened to that!

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

All your news. All in one place. Every day.

"Better" Dads and "Re-invigorated" Moms: Happier Couples
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,209 views

Lots of media coverage as Swalwell calls it quits for 2020 presidential bid
By Tim Hunt | 20 comments | 1,134 views