Former Caltrain employees accused of embezzlement

A former Caltrain employee and a contractor are being accused of embezzlement.

Joe Navarro, Caltrain's ex-deputy director of operations and contract employee Seth Worden have both been charged by the San Mateo district attorney's office for misusing public funds for private use.

Worden, 61, was arraigned Wednesday and released on his own recognizance, court records show. Navarro, 66, was scheduled to be arraigned Friday when Worden is set to make another court appearance.

Prosecutors said that between 2019 and 2020 Navarro allegedly conspired with Worden and approved $42,000 in building expenses to turn an office into a small apartment inside Caltrain’s Burlingame train station.

Navarro and Worden allegedly ensured that no invoice surpassed $3,000, averting further authorization from Caltrain and TransAmerica Services Inc., the firm that employed Worden, prosecutors said.

Caltrain employees first discovered the converted space at the Millbrae station in 2020, authorities said. But the transit agency was unaware of Navarro’s place in Burlingame until getting an anonymous tip in 2022, they said.

"The misuse of public funds for private use is a violation of the law, Caltrain policy and the public’s trust," Caltrain Executive Director Michelle Bouchard said in a statement. "Caltrain investigates every claim of such misconduct, and in cases where there is evidence of unlawful conduct by an employee or a contractor, we immediately act to rectify the situation and hold the individuals who are responsible accountable."

Navarro was fired after being confronted with the tip, and reportedly admitted to "occasionally using the station as his residence," prosecutors said. Caltrain then alerted the district attorney’s office about the potential for criminal charges.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.