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Ex-La Jolla Music Society finance director sentenced to 30 months in jail for embezzling $650,000

The previous director of finance for the La Jolla Music Society was sentenced Aug. 4 to 30 months in jail for embezzling greater than $650,000 from the nonprofit over almost a decade.

Chris Benavides, 52, pleaded responsible earlier this yr to a rely of federal wire fraud.

U.S. District Choose Cathy Ann Bencivengo additionally issued a preliminary order for Benavides to pay $650,000 in restitution to the Music Society.

Benavides used the funds, stolen between October 2011 and February 2021, to pay his mortgage, bank card and utility payments and different private bills, in line with the U.S. legal professional’s workplace.

Prosecutors stated he issued unauthorized checks to himself, then altered the Music Society’s accounting data to make the funds seem like for professional enterprise bills.

The Music Society fired Benavides final yr and reported the embezzlement to police. The group has since filed a lawsuit in opposition to him alleging fraud and different causes of motion.

A number of LJMS members attended Benavides’ sentencing listening to, together with its president and chief government, Todd Schultz, who stated the defendant “systematically” stole from the group and at occasions denied raises to employees as a result of he claimed funds weren't obtainable.

Schultz stated the group believes the theft began sooner than 2011 however the nonprofit’s data don’t return far sufficient to show it.

He additionally famous that Benavides was making a six-figure wage and stated his theft was not dedicated out of desperation or dire monetary straits.

“He didn’t need to steal. He needed to steal,” Schultz stated.

Steve Baum, chairman of the LJMS board of administrators, stated the group is “comparatively small” and operates “like a household.” Given the tight-knit nature of the nonprofit, “folks had been actually heartbroken” when the theft got here to mild, Baum stated.

Benavides advised Bencivengo that “I’m ashamed of what I’ve executed” and stated he has misplaced the belief of many pals, “all due to my poor choices.”

The decide, who imposed an extended sentence than the 24 months requested by the prosecution, excoriated Benavides, saying this kind of embezzlement is “far more egregious when a nonprofit is concerned.” ◆

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