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Mosquito district embezzlers sentenced: One faces eight years in prison; other owes restitution fees, time served
January 25, 2014, 05:00 AM Daily Journal Staff report

Jo Ann Dearman

Vika Sinipata

Sentencing finally came for two former mosquito district workers who stole a half-million dollars from the district, with one looking at eight years of prison and the other owing $259,000 in restitution fees.

At the eighth sentencing trial, Jo Ann Dearman was ordered to eight years in state prison and is responsible for paying $761,663 back to the San Mateo County Mosquito and Vector Control District. She does qualify as white-collar criminal, so she has to pay a special fine of $997,011.62. Meanwhile, her accomplice and former bookkeeping assistant Vika Sinipata was sentenced to four years in state prison, but was released after two years in custody yesterday since California realignment law allows for a credit of one day for each day served, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

She isn’t being charged as a white-collar criminal, but needs to pay $259,000 of the total restitution fees Dearman is paying.

“It’s just a boondoggle of special charges,” said Dearman’s defense attorney Geoff Carr. “We’re probably going to have to appeal it because it’s just a mess and it got out of hand. It’s a year or two more than she deserved. This woman, she ain’t ever going to be able to pay that.”

Carr previously said news of the previously unknown white-collar fine allowed him to withdraw the no contest plea by his client Dearman, who is also known by the name Joanne Seeney, but he’d prefer instead to have prosecutors waive the penalty and let her use some of that money to repay the earlier victim. Dearman pleaded no contest in April 2013 to 10 felonies out of the original 200 charged.

At a prior 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. Sinipata, 37, pleaded no contest to 12 felonies in February 2013 but her sentencing was postponed repeatedly along with Dearman because attorneys wanted them before a judge together. Sinipata was in custody on $150,000 bail.

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.

 

 

Tags: dearman, district, sinipata, years, charged, prison,


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