Date: January 6, 2016
FORMER OFFICE MANAGER CONVICTED AND SENTENCED FOR EMBEZZLING MONEY FROM CATHOLIC SCHOOL FUNDRAISING PROGRAM
SANTA ANA, Calif. – A former office manager was convicted and sentenced today for embezzling money from a Catholic school’s fundraising program. Adela Maria Tapia, 40, Tustin, pleaded guilty to a court offer of two felony counts of grand theft by embezzlement, 13 felony counts of money laundering with sentencing enhancement allegations for aggravated white collar crime over $100,000, and property loss of over $200,000. Tapia was sentenced to four years and eight months in state prison stayed pending the completion of one year in jail and five years formal probation over an objection by the People, who argued for a state prison sentence without the possibility of probation. Tapia was also ordered to pay over $438,000 in restitution.
In September 2006, Tapia was hired as the scrip card coordinator at the Holy Family Cathedral School (HFCS) in Orange. The scrip card program is utilized by HFCS to raise funds for the operating costs of the school by selling scrip cards, which act similarly to gift cards, to school families or parishioners at face value. HFCS purchases scrip cards at a discount and their profit is based on the difference between the purchase value and sale value of the scrip cards sold. The scrip card program raises approximately $200,000 for the school each year.
Between September 2006 and September 2011, Tapia took cash payments from school families that purchased scrip cards and deposited the money into her own personal bank account.
The defendant took scrip cards, kept in a safe at HFCS, and sold them to her family members, one of whom is an ordained deacon at another parish in the Catholic Diocese of Orange. Tapia kept the money from the scrip cards sold to her family members for her own personal use. Tapia used the money she received from selling scrip cards to purchase luxury clothing and goods from department stores and private school tuition.
In 2011, the defendant was transferred to an office manager position. A new employee training to be the scrip card coordinator asked the principal of HFCS for access to the safe containing the scrip cards. After opening the safe, the principal found $120,000 of scrip cards missing and reported the theft to the Orange Police Department, who investigated this case.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Marc Labreche of the Major Fraud Unit prosecuted this case.