Embezzling defendant might be seeking deal

MERCED -- A woman accused of embezzling $1.6 million from her employer waived her right to a preliminary hearing in Merced County Superior Court last week, possibly signaling a resolution to her case soon.

The case of Kimberly Sziraki, 45, can move forward without a judge deciding that the district attorney's office has sufficient evidence that a crime occurred.

Sziraki's attorney, John Garcia, said he doubts the case will go to trial, "unless there's a complete breakdown in negotiations, (that's) the only way I can see this actually going to jury trial."

"I am confident that (Chief Deputy District Attorney) Mark Bacciarini and I will probably come to some sort of agreement," Garcia said.

Bacciarini declined comment Friday about whether a plea agreement is in the works.

Sentence is focus

Garcia said his client waived her right to a preliminary hearing primarily because she understood she would be held to answer on the charges. The question now isn't whether Sziraki committed a crime, Garcia said, but what sentence she will receive.

He's hopeful that Sziraki, whose husband is Sgt. Steve Sziraki of the Merced County Sheriff's Department, will receive a lenient sentence because she has no prior criminal record and was suffering from alcoholism and other medical issues.

Still, Garcia acknowledged that prosecutors are pushing for prison.

"Mrs. Sziraki has never denied wrongdoing. She's never denied that there were acts of embezzlement. It's always been a matter of what would be the appropriate disposition," Garcia said.

Sziraki is accused of embezzling $1.6 million from 2005 to 2008 from Central Valley Processing Acquisition Corp., a nut processing plant in Merced County where she worked as a manager.

She faces 17 counts, most of which are felony embezzlement charges. If convicted, she faces a maximum of 17 years in prison.

Sziraki's next hearing is set for June 7.

Sziraki remains free on bail.