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California woman sentenced for defrauding convent

A federal judge sentenced a former Los Gatos convent employee to 14 months in prison Aug. 22. It was less than half of the 30-month prison sentence she was possibly facing after allegedly admitting that she embezzled more than $100,000 from the Los Gatos-based convent.

She original faced up to 17 counts of fraud. In 2011, a grand jury indictment included three counts of mail fraud and 14 counts of wire fraud. The 67-year-old woman worked at the convent from 1987 to 2010 in various administrative positions. She allegedly took cash along with charging items such as jewelry, purses and kitchen appliances on the convent credit card.

In addition to the prison time, the former employee was ordered to pay restitution of more than $109,000 to the convent. At her sentencing, members of the convent did speak on her behalf about her good character. Her daughter, who cried during her speech to the judge, asked for leniency for her mother. The judge ordered the woman to surrender herself to authorities by Dec. 4 or within 90 days. She is scheduled to serve her sentence at an Arizona corrections institution, not California. She currently resides in Arizona. She apologized to the sisters and the convent at her sentencing hearing.

In cases where an individual is accused of fraud, it is easy to forget that the justice system presumes anyone innocent until proven guilty. Thus, the burden of proving guilt falls on the prosecutor. A criminal defense attorney may be able to help in challenging the evidence. It may be possible to negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecutor to reduce charges or prison time.

Source: Los Gatos Patch, "14-Month Prison Sentence For Woman Who Defrauded Los Gatos Convent", Sheila Sanchez, August 23, 2013

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