Prosecutors say they've uncovered more evidence in the case of embezzlement suspect Kimberly Sziraki, claiming the amount of alleged stolen funds has doubled to about $1.6 million.
Sziraki, 45, was arrested Jan. 7 on suspicion of embezzling money from Central Valley Processing Acquisition Corp. in Merced, where she'd worked as a manager. She was charged with three felony counts of embezzlement and one count of unlawful use of an access card.
Sziraki is scheduled to be arraigned Thursday on 13 additional counts of felony embezzlement, according to Chief Deputy District Attorney Mark Bacciarini. The Merced County District Attorney's Office filed those charges in Merced County Superior Court last week.
According to Bacciarini, the latest 13 counts were filed after investigators from the district attorney's office issued a subpoena for bank records from a Bank of America account shared by Sziraki and her husband, Merced County Sheriff's Sgt. Steve Sziraki.
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Investigators found evidence of $279,126 in wire transfers and $524,172 in Central Valley Processing checks Kimberly Sziraki allegedly deposited into the Bank of America account between December 2005 and January 2007, Bacciarini said.
Sziraki was already facing charges for allegedly depositing about $832,000 from CVP into a Washington Mutual account between March 2006 and February 2008.
An examination of Sziraki's Washington Mutual and Bank of America accounts appears to indicate that a total of $1.6 million was embezzled from CVP between 2005 to 2008, Bacciarini said.
Sziraki was facing between five and 10 years in prison. Now that she's facing 13 additional charges, she could face 17 years behind bars if convicted.
The Bank of America account was in the name of Sziraki and her husband, but Bacciarini said there's no evidence Steve Sziraki knew about the stolen funds. The husband hasn't been charged in the case.
Investigators are still trying to account for what happened to the stolen funds. None of the money has been recovered, and some of it may have been spent on gambling, Bacciarini said.
Sziraki pleaded not guilty to the first four charges in January.
John Garcia, her attorney, said he couldn't comment specifically on the latest charges because he hasn't seen them. Still, Garcia said he wants to confirm whether the district attorney's office is inflating the amount of allegedly embezzled funds. "If they have that evidence, I am certainly very anxious to see that," Garcia said. "But I would certainly like to verify all of that stuff through a CPA."
Even if Sziraki is convicted, Garcia said he's hopeful she'd receive a sentence of probation, as opposed to prison. Sziraki was suffering from alcoholism and post-traumatic stress disorder when the alleged crime happened, Garcia said.
Garcia said his client has cooperated fully with investigators, adding that he "doesn't see the point" in spending taxpayer dollars to incarcerate a nonviolent person with no criminal background. He noted that Sziraki has been in treatment.
Ken Spagnola, owner of Central Valley Processing, said he wasn't surprised investigators found more alleged embezzled funds. Since Sziraki's arrest in January, Spagnola has steadfastly maintained she stole more than $1 million. "I knew right away that the B of A account was a smoking gun," Spagnola said.
The alleged embezzlement began after Sziraki took over for a plant manager who had fallen ill to cancer, Spagnola said.
Spagnola said the alleged crimes came to light after he hired a bookkeeper, who spotted a wire transfer into a personal account for Sziraki. Spagnola said he also noticed that Sziraki hadn't been paying the company's payroll taxes. In April 2008, he contacted the Merced County District Attorney's Office about the missing funds.
Sziraki remains free on bail.
Reporter Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or email@example.com.