Patricia A. Francisco, 62, plead guilty in August to 4 counts of wire fraud committed at her place of employment, California Multimodal in Long Beach. Francisco lived in Huntington Beach and worked for the company as an accountant and, on several occasions, stole business checks from the company and made them out to “cash.” She would make out legitimate checks, then steal them and deposit the funds in her own bank account. All the while creating fake receipts to keep on file in an attempt to hide her nefarious dealings. Being that she was an accountant at the company, Francisco had access to a rubber stamp of her boss’ signature, allowing her to sign any checks she wanted.

Over the course of 15-years, Francisco successfully embezzled $3.5 million dollars from the company which she used to purchase a house, a condominium, a Cadillac Escalade, jewelry and vacations. When asked by prosecutors why she stole the money, she answered simply: “To have a better life.” And have a better life she did, for awhile, until she was caught and sentenced with 5-years in California state prison.

Embezzlement is covered under California Penal Code 503 PC and charges can be filed as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the amount stolen. If the monetary amount is less than $950, then it is usually charged as a misdemeanor. However, if over $950 is stolen, then the charge can be filed as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances of the case. If charged as a misdemeanor, embezzlement carries the possible penalty of up to 1-year in county jail and/or 1-year informal probation and a fine of up to $1,000. If convicted of a felony, then the possible penalties include anywhere from 1 to 5-years in California state prison (depending on the amount stolen), formal probation, and a fine of up to $10,000.