San Diego, CA–A former director of finance for the La Jolla Music Society pleaded guilty in federal court to wire fraud, admitting that while employed as the director of finance for the La Jolla Music Society, he embezzled more than $650,000 over a 10-year period.
In a hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Barbara Major, 52-year-old Chris Benavides of San Diego admitted he abused his access to the company’s accounting software and issued unauthorized checks to himself. Benavides admitted that he stole over $650,000 between October 2011 and February 2021 from the La Jolla Music Society.
Benavides used the La Jolla Music Society’s money to pay his mortgage, credit cards, and other personal expenses. He then concealed the payments by manipulating the company’s accounting records to make it appear that they were legitimate business expenses.
The La Jolla Music Society discovered Benavides’s fraudulent activity on February 22, fired Benavides, and reported the conduct to law enforcement.
“Fraud perpetrated against non-profit organizations is particularly troubling,” said U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. “This defendant abused his position of trust to enrich himself and will be held accountable for his crime.” Grossman thanked the prosecution team and FBI agents for their excellent work on this case.
“The defendant spent nearly a decade abusing his trusted employment access to embezzle more than $650,000 from the La Jolla Music Society, where he most recently served as the Director of Finance,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Suzanne Turner. “Crimes such as this can have a devastating impact on both the employer and the local community, and further shake the confidence of the donors whose charitable contributions provide critical support for non-profit organizations. I hope this guilty plea provides a sense of closure and justice for the victims.”
Benavides is scheduled to be sentenced on May 5 before U.S. District Judge Cathy Ann Bencivengo.
The maximum penalty is 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.