According to statement from the Sonoma County District Attorney’s office, Sandra Suzanne Turner, 65, of Cloverdale, was sentenced on Aug. 10 by the Honorable Robert LaForge to serve three years and eight months in state prison after having entered “no contest” pleas in June of this year to one count of felony grand theft and two counts of felony forgery.
The charges resulted from an investigation that revealed Turner had embezzled approximately $194,000 from Paul Hobbs Winery during her time as a bookkeeper for the company.
“This was a significant loss to this business,” said District Attorney Jill Ravitch in the statement. “This defendant built up the trust of her employer, as is often true in embezzlement cases, and simply concealed her crimes over a lengthy period of time.”
According the to the DA’s office, Turner was able to embezzle funds from the company by creating false business checks and forging the signature of the company’s CFO. She would then alter the business accounting records to make the checks appear to be vendor payments. She was ultimately discovered when a vendor called a co-worker to report an unpaid invoice. The subsequent investigation revealed that Turner had forged approximately 119 checks over a period of time between 2010-2016.
According to Turner’s attorney, Evan Zelig, Turner paid back Paul Hobbs Winery’s insurance company in full on January 27, 2017. In an email, Zelig stated he believes this was beneficial to his client in the sentencing portion of the trial.
“Ms. Turner was originally charged with various enhancements under the penal code which would have resulted, if convicted of those enhancements, in her sentence being imposed for time being served in state prison,” Zelig said in an email. “As a result of her timely payment back to Paul Hobbs the DA agreed as part of the plea negotiations to strike / dismiss any state prison enhancements; and they also dismissed other alleged offenses that Ms. Turner was originally charged with.”
The case was prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Amy Ariyoshi. The Sonoma County Human Services Special Investigation Unit headed the investigation.