J. Marchini Farms clerk faces 7 to 10 years in prison.
LE GRAND - A 58-year-old woman accused of stealing nearly $1 million from Le Grand-based J. Marchini Farms will soon be headed to state prison after pleading no contest to two counts of embezzlement and check fraud.
Beverly Roan reached an agreement with prosecutors last Thursday and faces seven to 10 years in prison. She’ll also be ordered to pay full restitution to the company.
A payroll clerk, Roan was arrested Feb. 1 by Merced County sheriff’s deputies after investigators say she created six fictitious employees on the company’s books and collected the payroll checks in their names.
Roan had been stealing the money since 2003, authorities say, forging her boss’ signature and cashing the checks at a small market in Chowchilla. She would then gamble with the money at Chukchansi Gold Resort and Casino near Coarsegold.
The crimes came to light after J. Marchini Farms officials had to reissue checks while Roan was out of the office and they couldn’t find the fictitious employees. A check of employee records revealed the employees didn’t exist.
When she was arrested, Roan was accused of stealing $360,000, but that figure increased after the company further researched the thefts. She confessed to the crimes under questioning from detectives. J. Marchini Farms spent $20,000 to discover all the thefts, according to a victim impact statement from the company.
Deputy District Attorney Matthew Serratto, prosecutor in the case, said Roan gambled away about $980,000 at Chukchansi.
In making the agreement with the defendant, Serratto said prosecutors looked at other recent embezzlement cases, including Kimberly Sziraki’s case. Sziraki was sentenced last year to seven years in state prison for embezzling $1.4 million from a Merced nut-processing plant.
Serratto said the resolution of Roan’s case is fair and he expects Roan will receive a sentence of seven years. “I think (the outcome) is about right. It could have been more. Seven years is a long time,” Serratto said.
Serratto mentioned that a judge has granted Roan a one-day jail release to visit her dying mother on Oct. 8, before beginning her prison sentence.
Jeffrey Tenenbaum, Roan’s attorney, said his client has expressed remorse for her crimes. Tenenbaum said Roan wants to counsel others who’ve been addicted to gambling, through organizations and groups such as Gamblers Anonymous. “She felt bad about it,” Tenenbaum said. “She wants to do her time, get out and get back to her family.”
Jeff Marchini, the company’s chief executive officer, couldn’t be reached for comment.
Joe Marchini, the company’s president, wrote in a May 19 letter to the court that Roan’s actions prevented the company from paying down significant agricultural loans, costing the company $60,000 in interest expenses. “We could have used the money to stimulate the county with additional hiring of hard-working honest people,” Marchini wrote. “The kindness we extended to Ms. Roan provided her with many opportunities over the years to stop her criminal activity and minimize the loss to our business. The embezzled funds were wasted selfishly on gambling without any recourse to recoup our loss.”
Roan is scheduled to be sentenced by Commissioner Ralph Cook on Oct. 17.