A woman who embezzled more than $1 million from Le Grand-based J. Marchini Farms was sentenced by Merced County Superior Court Commissioner Ralph Cook on Monday to seven years in state prison.
Beverly Roan, 58, was a payroll clerk with the company and was arrested Feb. 1 by Merced County sheriff's deputies after she created six fictitious employees on the company's books and collected paychecks in their names for several years.
Roan, who pleaded no contest on two counts of embezzlement and check fraud in September, had been stealing the money since 2003, forging her boss' signature and cashing the checks at a small market in Chowchilla, according to authorities. She would then gamble with the money at Chukchansi Gold Resort and Casino near Coarsegold.
Deputy District Attorney Matthew Serratto, prosecutor in the case, said Roan gambled away about $980,000 at Chukchansi.
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Company officials realized what was happening when they had to reissue checks while Roan was out of the office, but couldn't find the fabricated employees. After checking employee records, officials realized the names were faked.
When Roan was arrested, she was accused of stealing $360,000, but that figure increased after more digging by the company. She confessed to the crimes while being questioned by detectives, authorities said.
J. Marchini Farms spent $20,000 to discover all the thefts, according to a victim impact statement from the company.
Jeff Marchini, owner and vice president of J. Marchini Farms, described the situation over the phone as "unfortunate," but didn't give further comment after Monday's sentencing.
It hasn't been determined where Roan will serve out her sentence, but her attorney, Jeffrey Tenenbaum, said it will most likely be Chowchilla.
Serratto thought Roan's sentence was appropriate.
"I think compared to other similar cases, the punishment fit the crime," Serratto said. "She had a real serious gambling problem."
Roan, a resident of Madera, was also ordered to pay back the money she embezzled, but officials say they have doubts whether that will ever happen.
Reporter Mike North can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.