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Sentencing in mosquito district embezzlement delayed, again
January 18, 2014, 05:00 AM By Michelle Durand Daily Journal

Jo Ann Dearman

Vika Sinipata

A possible $1 million white collar crime fine is tripping up sentencing of two former mosquito district workers who stole a half-million dollars for personal needs, including one’s legal bills in an earlier embezzlement case.

Defense attorney Geoff Carr said news of the previously unknown fine allows him to withdraw the no contest plea by his client Jo Ann Dearman but he’d prefer instead to have prosecutors waive the penalty and let her use some of that money to repay the earlier victim. Carr also said there’s no way his client can pay $1 million to the state on top of the $233,000 restitution she’s put together to repay the San Mateo County Mosquito and Vector Control District.

“Where is she going to get that? It’s a really bizarre statute developed for the Madoffs of the world and this lady ain’t in that circle,” Carr said.

Dearman, who is also known by the name Joanne Seeney, pleaded no contest in April 2013 to 10 felonies out of the original 200 charged and her sentence is predicated largely on restitution. Carr is seeking five to six years while prosecutors are asking for 10 years.

At the last court appearance, Carr presented a $200,000 check to the court but a judge ordered Dearman, 62, into custody without pending sentencing. She had been out of custody largely the entire prosecution.

Her accomplice and former bookkeeping assistant Vika Sinipata, 37, pleaded no contest to 12 felonies in February 2013 but her sentencing has been postponed repeatedly along with Dearman because attorneys want them before a judge together. Sinipata has been in custody on $150,000 bail.

They next appear in court Jan. 24 — the eighth attempt at sentencing — at which time Carr said a decision about the white collar fine should be made.

District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said Carr should have been aware of the fine component of one allegation to which Dearman pleaded and that his office is not planning to forgo it.

Sinipata did not admit a similar allegation or face the fine.

Carr said Friday he suggested taking the $233,000 earmarked for the district and giving $33,000 or so of it to his client’s previous employers from whom she stole but that the county counsel wasn’t in favor of the suggestion.

The aggravated white collar fine is calculated by doubling the amount a defendant took, Carr said.

The California penal code says the designation is for a person who commits two or more felonies involving fraud or embezzlement with losses more than $100,000.

In the latest case, Dearman and Sinipata embezzled the funds between 2009 and 2011 by giving themselves extra pay at a higher pay rate and fraudulent time off, excessively contributing to their deferred compensation funds, using credit cards for personal purchases and electronically transferring 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 loss closer to $800,000 for the embezzlement and more than $1.2 million when attorney fees are added in.

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

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. District Manager Robert Gay hired Dearman without a background or reference check after Sinipata, who Gay knew through her accounting services, referred her. Dearman then hired Sinipata.

According to a now-retired operations director at the district, Dearman charged defense attorney’s 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.

(650) 344-5200 ext. 102



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

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