The wheelchair-bound former Mid-Peninsula Water District worker accused of stealing more than $200,000 to fund a gambling addiction pleaded not guilty yesterday to embezzlement in her first court appearance on the alleged crimes prosecutors say went unnoticed for three years until she left on medical leave.
Catherine Marie Abou-Remeleh, 53, is charged with theft of government funds over $200,000, identity theft and an allegation of committing aggravated white collar crime. After entering her plea, she waived her right to a speedy prosecution and a preliminary hearing was set for Friday. Meanwhile, she remains free from custody on her own recognizance and is reportedly in assisted living because of the 2011 stroke that sparked discovery of the alleged embezzlement.
Abou-Remeleh, of Hayward, was the administrative services manager of the Mid-Peninsula Water District which primarily serves Belmont and reportedly worked there for about a decade. Just before Christmas of 2011, she took a leave of absence after suffering a stroke and another employee discovered some “financial irregularities” that prompted its own audit in late 2011.
Those irregularities reportedly included writing 187 checks to herself from the district’s Wells Fargo account between November 2008 and November 2011. The $247,881 in purloined funds was allegedly used to pay gambling debts.
An anonymous source previously told the Daily Journal her interim replacement allegedly found a stack of checks hidden away in a filing cabinet that were all made out to Abou-Remeleh.
She also allegedly used the company credit card which led to the identity theft charge.
The district launched its own audit and turned over the findings to prosecutors who conducted its own forensic evaluation before filing charges in October.
Abou-Remeleh returns to court Jan. 22 for a Superior Court review conference prior to her preliminary hearing.
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