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Embezzlement charges filed against nonprofit director

Prosecutors in California say that the director of a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping children with special needs embezzled approximately $675,000 from the group between 2013 and 2015. The 57-year-old Santa Cruz woman was taken into custody by investigators from the Monterey County District Attorney's Office on March 19. Media reports suggest that prosecutors began investigating the nonprofit group in 2015 after an accountant hired by the woman reported a number of suspicious transactions to the California Attorney General's Office.

A team of forensic accountants determined that financial records turned over by the woman in January 2016 were incomplete, and these suspicions prompted investigators to obtain warrants to scrutinize her bank accounts, credit card bills and other financial documents. According to prosecutors, this investigation revealed that the woman used the organization's funds to pay for a lavish lifestyle that featured luxury automobiles, designer clothing and accessories and extravagant travel and entertainment.

Prosecutors admit that proving their case will involve making sense of large amounts of data and untangling complex financial transactions. In addition to a felony embezzlement count, the woman has been charged with money laundering and tax evasion. Prosecutors say that she failed to report all of her income on her 2013, 2014 and 2015 tax returns.

This case reveals how long the investigations into white-collar crimes can take and how complex they can be. While the evidence gathered by forensic accountants can be compelling, it can also be difficult for juries to understand. Experienced criminal defense attorneys may encourage prosecutors to avoid the uncertainties of a jury trail and settle complicated financial cases quickly, and they could urge them to consider alternatives to incarceration in return for a speedy disposition.

Source: The Monterey County Weekly, "Executive director accused of embezzling $675,000 from group serving special needs children", Pam Marino, March 27, 2018

Source: The Monterey County Weekly, "Nonprofit director pleads not guilty to embezzlement, money laundering and tax evasion", Pam Marino, March 31, 2018

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