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California Humane Society executive pleads guilty to embezzlement

A 50-year-old California woman has admitted to embezzling almost $60,000 from the Lake Tahoe Humane Society. She served as the nonprofit organization's executive director between 2014 and 2017 according to reports. Her guilty plea, which was part of a negotiated agreement, was announced by the El Dorado County District Attorney's Office on Sept. 24. Under the terms of the agreement, the woman will serve six months in county jail followed by four years of formal probation. She has also promised to repay the $59,664 she allegedly embezzled and refrain from gambling.

Media accounts reveal that the woman was taken into custody by South Lake Tahoe Police Department detectives in July following an 18-month investigation. The investigation was initiated by concerns raised by the Humane Society after evidence of embezzlement was discovered following the woman's termination. The detectives investigating the claims say that their job was made more difficult by the nonprofit organization's sloppy bookkeeping practices.

The woman is said to have used Humane Society funds to purchase furniture for her home, repair her vehicle and pay personal expenses including air tickets and cellphone bills. The Humane Society says that the embezzlement damaged them financially and prompted them to curtail services. Reports indicate that the woman will be permitted to petition for expungement or a reduction of the charges only after she has paid the money back in full.

Cases involving white collar crimes like embezzlement are often resolved with plea agreements. Prosecutors may be motivated to avoid court because these cases often involve complex financial arrangements that can be difficult for juries to comprehend, and criminal defense attorneys may seek a negotiated resolution because the penalties for these offenses can be severe and prosecutors rarely pursue such cases unless their evidence is compelling.

Source: U.S. News, Ex-Lake Tahoe Humane Society Boss Guilty of Embezzlement, Associated Press report, Sept. 25, 2018Source: The Sierra Sun, DA: Former Lake Tahoe Humane Society director pleads guilty to embezzlement, Ryan Hoffman, Sept. 25, 2018

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