Former California credit union chief accountant accused of fraud

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Stephanie Simontacchi, a former accountant at a California credit union and a former assistant controller at a local hotel, pleaded not guilty to bank fraud, embezzlement and tax evasion charges in a hearing before a U.S. District Court in San Francisco on Tuesday.

Simontacchi, 48, of Petaluma, allegedly embezzled more than $ 437,000 from the Redwood Credit Union of $ 6.6 billion from April 2016 to April 2019, according to federal prosecutors in the U.S. District Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California.

“The activity giving rise to the indictment was discovered in 2019 through our own internal examination and promptly reported to law enforcement. No losses were suffered by RCU members as a result of the fraudulent activity, ”said Ron Felder, RCU Chief Financial Officer and Risk Officer. “We have further strengthened our systems and processes to avoid future incidents of this nature. The RCU has fully cooperated with the investigation since its initiation and deeply appreciates the diligent efforts of law enforcement authorities to bring this matter to justice. Protecting our members’ accounts and RCU’s financial integrity will always be our top priorities.

Prior to joining the Santa Rosa-based credit union, Simontacchi worked as an accountant and assistant controller with Cavallo Point Lodge, a hotel near Sausalito, Calif., From December 2009 to April 2016, when she also reportedly hijacked 384,363 $.

A federal grand jury indictment last week charged Simontacchi with eight counts of embezzlement of credit union funds, seven counts of bank fraud and four counts of tax evasion for non-payment of taxes on ill-gotten gains.

At RCU, Simontacchi’s responsibilities included processing canceled official checks (also known as cashier’s checks) and communicating with the official credit union check provider regarding issues with funding and voiding those checks. She also had access to checks made and made payable to RCU that were sent to the accounting department for processing, including reimbursement checks from the official check seller and reimbursement checks from the United States Department of the Treasury. and the State of California.

The indictment alleged that Simontacchi had embezzled some of these checks, as well as official checks that had been returned to RCU by members and were believed to have been canceled. Instead, the former credit union employee deposited those checks into her personal bank accounts. Court documents showed that Simontacchi had 12 different accounts at major banks and one account at RCU, which included a checking account and a HELOC account.

At Cavallo Point Lodge, Simontacchi had access to his employer’s accounting records and systems and had signing authority over bank accounts that allowed him to create and sign checks from hotel bank accounts to pay debts. company invoices.

The indictment alleged that Simontacchi embezzled funds from his employer by stealing accounts receivable checks that had been sent to Cavallo Point Lodge by third parties and deposited those checks into his personal bank accounts. She also allegedly misappropriated accounts payable checks drawn on Cavallo Point Lodge’s bank accounts and payable to third-party suppliers. Instead of sending those checks to third parties, Simontacchi would have deposited them into its own bank accounts, according to federal prosecutors.

She used the embezzled funds for personal expenses, including payments on her HELOC, court documents showed.

Following her court appearance, Simontacchi was released on $ 200,000 bail.

Simontacchi’s lawyer did not respond to CU time‘request for comment.

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