SANTA ANA (CBSLA.com) — A former office manager for Holy Family Cathedral School in Orange was arrested Tuesday on charges of embezzling more than $400,000 from the school over a five-year period.
Adela Maria Tapia, 40, of Tustin, was arrested outside Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana as she dropped off one of her children for school, Senior Deputy District Attorney Marc Labreche said. She is accused of stealing about $438,000 between September 2006 and September 2011.
Tapia coordinated Holy Family’s scrip card program — fundraising cash cards which the school bought at a discount and sold at face value.The scrip card program raises about $200,000 for the school each year, prosecutors said.
Tapia allegedly took scrip cards from the school’s safe, sold them and kept the profits from those who paid cash, Labreche said. She also allegedly ordered scrip cards and pocketed the cash payments from selling them.
Labreche said Tapia sold the cards to family members, including an ordained deacon in the Diocese of Orange, for “lifestyle enhancement using other people’s money.” Prosecutors say Tapia used some of the stolen funds to buy luxury clothing and goods from department stores and to pay for tuition for her children at Holy Family Cathedral School and Mater Dei.
The alleged scheme was uncovered when Tapia was transferred to an office manager job and $120,000 in scrip cards were found missing.
The Diocese of Orange released the following statement:
“In 2012 Holy Family Cathedral School in Orange discovered that an employee had violated the trust of the school and parish through their mismanagement of the school’s scrip program. This employee was immediately released from their employment at the school after the irregularities in the scrips program were discovered and the matter was referred to law enforcement. After an exhaustive investigation the Orange County District Attorney has decided to pursue several criminal charges in this case.”
The school has since “instituted more robust financial controls to ensure this issue is not repeated,” according to the statement.
Labreche said the Diocese has been fully cooperative in the investigation.
Tapia, who is charged with two felony counts of grand theft by embezzlement and 13 felony counts of money laundering, was scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday. She could face up to 14 years and four months in prison if she is convicted at trial.
The case took several years to investigate because of its complexity, Labreche said.
“There’s 83,000 pages of discovery (evidence) in this case,” Labreche said.
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