Folks often ask me how I come up with the topics that I write about. Most days, I look for regulatory and legal stories about Wall Street; however, I always have an eye open for a quirky headline. Which might explain the genesis of this article.
Imagine coming across a Department of Justice press release with this startling statement:
Former Los Gatos Convent Employee Pleads Guilty to Embezzling from Catholic Nuns
The lawyer in me wondered just how you would put on a defense for someone who had embezzled from nuns. I mean, whoa, where do you even start and good luck picking a jury.
On December 21, 2011, just a few days before Christmas, Linda Gomez (a/k/a Linda Surrett), 65, of Sunnyvale,CA, a former lay employee for the the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary Catholic Convent in Los Gatos, CA was indicted on 14 counts of wire fraud and 3 counts of mail fraud.
According to the Indictment, between 1987 and 2010, Gomez worked for the Convent in various administrative capacities, including as the director of food services and the manager of an on-site convenience store. As part of her professional responsibilities, Gomez made purchases for the 75 Catholic nuns and 60 lay employees at the Convent.
Apparently, sometime around March 2008, Gomez sort of lost her way. The Indictment charged that she embezzled over $100,000 from the Convent, of which at least $47,000 was cash. In furtherance of her scheme, Gomez obtained fraudulent reimbursements or credits for products she falsely claimed to have purchased for the Convent and its nuns. Allegedly, Gomez diverted over $53,000 for personal expenses such as jewelry, high-end cutlery, purses, shoes, kitchen appliances, and numerous purchases on QVC and Home Shopping Networks.
Gomez faces a maximum statutory penalty for wire fraud and mail fraud of 20 years in prison and a fine of $1 million, plus restitution.
On October 25, 2012, Gomez pled guilty to all 17 wire and mail fraud counts. Federal prosecutors noted that there is no plea agreement in this case - confession may be good for the soul but the Feds weren't cutting this defendant much slack. Gomez is scheduled for sentencing in March 2013.
Frankly, I think it was best said long ago:
For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? (King James Bible, Mark 8:36).
Then again, with all due credit to Thomas More and Wales, but for high-end cutlery, QVC, and HSN?