Monday, February 8, 2010
Ex-State Bar Employee Sentenced for Embezzlement
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A former State Bar employee from Oakland who stole over $600,000 from the organization was sentenced Friday to two years and eight months in prison.
Attorney General Jerry Brown said in a release that Sharon Elyce Pearl, 52, had “methodically embezzled more than $600,000 to bankroll a lavish lifestyle,” spending the money on spa treatments, designer clothes and other luxury items.
As part of her sentence, Pearl will be required to pay $615,790 in restitution to the State Bar; $167,422 in staff, audit and attorney costs to the State Bar; and $116,652 in taxes, penalties, interest and investigation costs to the Franchise Tax Board.
Pearl has already paid $393,212 of the $615,790 owed to the State Bar in restitution, Brown said.
She had pleaded no contest to one count of embezzlement and six counts of filing false tax returns in the Alameda Superior Court last December. Pearl had faced a potential sentence of up to nine years imprisonment.
As the State Bar’s director of real property, Pearl had been responsible for collecting rent from tenants who leased retail space in the building housing the association’s headquarters in San Francisco.
Pearl began directing tenants to make rent checks payable to “PLOT-The State Bar of California” as early as 2002, and deposited them into accounts held by the Piedmont Light Opera Theatre, upon which she was a signatory, Brown said. Pearl would then transfer the funds to her personal bank account.
Because the State Bar did not track its rent payments, Pearl was able to continue her scheme for several years, and the State Bar did not discover the theft until Pearl requested a check for a tenant’s security deposit refund in 2008, Brown explained.
When no record indicating the State Bar actually received the deposit could be found, the organization launched an investigation which discovered Pearl was keeping two sets of books. The investigation was then referred to the Attorney General’s Special Crimes Unit for prosecution.
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