9Lives owner arraigned on embezzlement, grand theft

Jorge Briones

The owner of a downtown Gilroy concert house and former executive director of the Morgan Hill Downtown Association was arraigned on charges of embezzlement and grand theft at the South County Courthouse Friday.

9Lives owner Jorge Briones, 47 of Morgan Hill, was arrested on a $50,000 warrant in October after a year-long investigation into his allegedly fraudulent activity. He is accused of writing checks to himself from the MHDA’s account, and trying to cover up his actions by claiming the checks were written to vendors who supplied goods and services to the MHDA, and for other work-related expenses, according to authorities.

He allegedly wrote about 50 checks to himself in this manner, authorities said. All together, the checks added up to more than $29,000 embezzled from the nonprofit organization.

Briones was the director of the MHDA from 2007 to 2011, and police think his alleged rip-off scheme was ongoing for at least the last two of those years.

After the MHDA board of directors eliminated Briones’ executive director’s position in 2011 – when the organization was struggling financially, reportedly for reasons unrelated to the alleged embezzlement – he opened up the 9Lives music club in downtown Gilroy.

Briones appeared at his scheduled arraignment Friday, but did not enter a plea, according to Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Judy Lee.

His next hearing is scheduled for Jan. 29 at South County Courthouse, “to give him time to hire a lawyer,” Lee said. An attorney from the Public Defender’s office represented Briones at Friday’s hearing.

Briones posted $50,000 bail shortly after his arrest in October, and is out of custody.

The MHDA is a nonprofit organization that promotes downtown Morgan Hill for economic development and tourism purposes. It hosts several events and series of events annually, including the Downtown Wine Stroll and the summer time Thursday street dance concert series on Third Street.

The MHDA is funded by annual membership dues, revenue from events it sponsors, fundraising efforts and – formerly – the Morgan Hill RDA before that agency was dissolved by state law earlier this year.

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