|For Immediate Release
Case # 10CF2873
February 17, 2011
|Susan Kang Schroeder
Chief of Staff
CFO AND CONTROLLER SENTENCED FOR EMBEZZLING OVER $1.5 MILLION BY PROCESSING OVER 800 FRAUDULENT CHECKS TO THEMSELVES
SANTA ANA – A chief financial officer (CFO) and controller for a chemical sealant company were sentenced today for embezzling over $1.5 million from their employer by processing over 800 unauthorized checks to themselves. Controller Maria Lorena Vega Yarrish, 40, Buena Park, pleaded guilty Feb. 17, 2011, to the court to 40 felony counts of computer access and fraud. CFO co-defendant Eric Wayne Helgemo, 50, Vista, pleaded guilty Feb. 17, 2011, to the court to 38 felony counts of computer access and fraud. Both defendants pleaded guilty to sentencing enhancements and allegations for property damage over $1.3 million, causing loss over $100,000, and aggravated white collar crime over $100,000. Yarrish and Helgemo were sentenced to 8 years and 10 years, respectively, in state prison and a $3,046,628 fine each. They are scheduled to appear in court for a restitution hearing March 24, 2011, at 8:30 a.m. in Department C-55, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana.
In August 2000, Yarrish was hired as a controller for Pacific Polymers, Inc., a chemical sealant company. In January 2002, Helgemo was hired by the same company as the Vice President and CFO. Helgemo directly supervised Yarrish.
Yarrish had the responsibility of processing employee timesheets using a computer payroll and paycheck system. Helgemo, who prepared financial reports for the company owner, had the responsibility of reviewing the weekly payroll and paycheck reports upon completion by Yarrish.
Between 2003 and 2008, Yarrish and Helgemo stole over $1.5 million from Pacific Polymers by processing between one and 11 fraudulent paychecks per pay period for the two defendants. Helgemo took 593 fraudulent payments amounting to over $1.1 million. Yarrish took 229 fraudulent payments amounting to over $340,000. The fraud went undetected for several years, as Helgemo was entrusted to monitor Yarrish’s work.
In June 2008, Pacific Polymers was sold to Illinois Tool Works, Inc. (ITW) and the defendants’ jobs were subsequently eliminated. The theft was discovered after the purchase by ITW during an audit of Pacific Polymer’s finances. The case was investigated by the Garden Grove Police Department.
In court today, victim and owner of the chemical sealant company, Cornelis Claus, told the court, “It is particularly disappointing to me that during the year of 2007 when I was fighting cancer that Eric Helgemo and Maria Yarrish continued and increased their scheme to defraud my family and steal company assets. Aside from the financial losses, I take this as a personal violation of trust.”
Deputy District Attorney Marc Labreche of the Major Fraud Unit is prosecuting this case.