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Embezzling mosquito district workers sentencing delayed
September 14, 2013, 05:00 AM By Michelle Durand Daily Journal

Jo Ann Dearman

Vika Sinipata

Sentencing was delayed again Friday for two former mosquito district finance workers who stole more than a half-million dollars of taxpayer money and used it for a variety of personal things including partially paying one’s legal fees in an earlier embezzlement case.

Jo Ann Dearman, otherwise known as Joanne Seeney, sought more time because the house sale with which she plans to pay restitution is going slow. The amount of repayment by Dearman doesn’t affect the possible sentence imposed on co-defendant Vika Sinipata but she also delayed her hearing because attorneys want both women to stand together. Sentencing was reset for Oct. 25.

Former finance director Dearman, 62, was originally charged with nearly 200 crimes. She pleaded no contest to 10 felonies in return for seven years at most but possibly less depending on repayment. Bookkeeper assistant Vika Sinipata, 37, pleaded no contest to 12 felonies with no sentencing promises.

Dearman was the finance director at the San Mateo County Mosquito and Vector Control District. Sinipata served as an accounting supervisor and bookkeeper assistant. The pair embezzled the funds between 2009 and 2011 by giving themselves extra pay at a higher pay rate and fraudulent time off, excessively contributed to their deferred compensation funds, used credit cards for personal purchases and electronically transferred money into their own accounts. An audit showed more than $635,000 missing but prosecutors only charged them with stealing approximately $450,000 because they could not prove an actual loss of the greater amount. Other evaluations have placed the district lose closer to $800,000 for the embezzlement and more than $1.2 million when attorney fees are added in.

The charges against Dearman and Sinipata raised questions about the district’s oversight and operations, particularly because at the time Dearman had one embezzlement conviction on her record and was being prosecuted for a second. Manager Robert Gay hired Dearman without a background or reference check after Sinipata referred her. Dearman then hired Sinipata.

According to a now-retired operations director at the district, Dearman charged defense attorneys fees for that case to the district and at one point took medical leave, claiming she needed to care for her mother but in actuality served two years and eight months in prison for the two different embezzlement cases. In one case, Dearman ran up more than a half-million dollars on her boss’ credit card.

The embezzlement came to light after a board member appointed by the city of San Carlos questioned the balance in a pesticide account.

The county’s special district oversight board considered dissolving the mosquito agency and handing its functions back to San Mateo County but ultimately voted against doing so. In July, the county’s civil grand jury recommended the Local Agency Formation Commission reconsider because it concluded that mismanagement, insufficient accountability and inadequate oversight led to the embezzlement. The report specifically blamed the district’s manager and 21-member board of trustees.

On Wednesday, LAFCo agreed reconsideration is warranted and asked the county Environmental Health division to first provide more financial information on the possible transfer.

michelle@smdailyjournal.com

(650) 344-5200 ext. 102

 

 

Tags: dearman, sinipata, embezzlement, district, because, million,


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