By SDCN Editor
San Diego, CA–A former finance director for La Jolla Music Society was sentenced in federal court to 30 months in prison for embezzling more than $650,000 from the non-profit over a 10-year period.
Chris Benavides, 52, of San Diego was also ordered to pay a minimum of $650,000 in restitution.
Benavides oversaw the budgeting process and human resources. Over the years he regularly claimed that many staff salary increases were not possible due to budgetary constraints. However, during that same period, Benavides was stealing for himself an average of about $65,000 per year.
The forensic review revealed that over the years Benavides’ theft became more and more sophisticated. He regularly planned his theft in advance of each fiscal year, budgeting for the amount that he would take over the next 12 months and embedding those expenses in various budget lines. This ensured that none of the expense lines would show conspicuous variances when reviewed by other staff, board members, or auditors. It was also discovered he regularly signed or forged checks for his personal benefit, and made false entries in the books to hide what he was doing.
“Mr. Benavides exploited his position of trust with the La Jolla Music Society by stealing month after month for over a decade,” said U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. “His greed and deception have had a lasting impact on this non-profit. Today, he has been held to account for his crimes.” Grossman thanked the prosecution team and FBI agents for their excellent work on this case.
“La Jolla Music Society trusted their Director of Finance to safeguard the non-profit’s funds, but Benavides had a different plan,” said Special Agent in Charge Stacey Moy of the FBI’s San Diego Field Office. “Instead, the defendant strategically calculated year over year to systematically steal from his employer, selfishly lining his own pockets.”
The maximum penalty is 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gain or loss, whichever is greater.