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Moore pleads "no contest" to embezzlement, forgery

Dan McDonald
Managing Editor

Former Indian Valley Community Services District General Manager Leanna May Moore pleaded "no contest" to felony embezzlement and forgery charges last week.

When Judge Ira Kaufman asked Moore if she understood the court would treat a "no contest" plea the same as "guilty" Moore quietly responded "yes."

According to the district attorney's office, the case represented the largest embezzlement of public funds in the history of Plumas County.

Moore, 42, was accused of stealing $676,375 when she worked as the district's GM from 2006 to 2012. She pleaded "no contest" to taking $626,000.

Moore, who lives in Winnemucca, Nevada, entered her plea on Friday afternoon, June 20, in Plumas County Superior Court in Quincy.

She originally pleaded "not guilty" following her November 2013 arrest.

Her "no contest" plea came two days after Judge Kaufman ruled there was sufficient evidence for Moore to be tried on four felony charges and an enhancement.

The charges consisted of one count of embezzlement, three counts for forgery and an aggravated white-collar crime enhancement.

Moore is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 12 when she faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

Moore's attorney Jeff Cunan said his client "fully acknowledges guilt" of embezzlement and forgery. He said Moore was surprised by the total amount.

"She was doing this misconduct over a period of time ... and she really didn't keep track," Cunan said. "When she was confronted with all of it added up ... She was shocked."

"I'm definitely very sorry," were Moore's only words as she was leaving the courthouse.

She remains free on $100,000 bail.

The court ordered Moore to surrender her passport to the district attorney's office by Thursday.

Judge Kaufman granted a delay in sentencing so that Moore could get her personal affairs in order. Before Sept. 12, she will be required to document all of her assets.

Moore faces possible fines and restitution of well over a million dollars. She will not be allowed to hold a public office for the rest of her life.

District Attorney David Hollister said he was pleased with the outcome and was looking forward to the sentencing hearing.

"I'm thankful for the great work by our investigators, particularly Jessica Beatley," Hollister said, "and for the cooperation of the (IVCSD) board and the district's employees.

"This was just a very difficult case at a lot of levels. Just the size of it. Six years of stealing. Almost a thousand different transactions, if you include the payroll."

Pretrial conference

During the June 18 pretrial conference, the district attorney called three witnesses and referred to hundreds of pages of documented evidence.

During testimony by DA investigator Beatley, former IVCSD GM Frank Richardson and CPA John Breaux, Hollister painted a picture of rampant theft by Moore that included 847 fraudulent transactions.

According to the DA's investigation, Moore stole most of the money via payroll fraud. She paid herself $421,367 more than her salary.

She also charged $105,581 on a district debit card for personal items from Amazon, Cabela's and other retailers.

She forged $140,514 in checks that she deposited into her own account, and she charged $8,911 worth of gasoline that she wasn't entitled to buy.

$500,000 threshold

That figure was the defense's major point of contention during the pretrial conference.

Moore testified that she stole money from the district and explained how she did it. But she said the amount was much less than $676,375.

A stolen dollar amount over $500,000 would allow the judge to render a longer sentence (up to five additional years in prison) under the aggravated white-collar crime code.

When Moore took the stand she provided a spreadsheet detailing the amount she admitting stealing. She said it was just under $400,000.

Her attorney said some of the money Moore was accused of taking was legitimate comp time, accrued health time and overtime.

"Quite a number of the items that they are saying were fraudulently obtained were actually for district use and authorized by board members," Cunan said. "That's our claim. And we believe that the truth is the embezzlement was four hundred thousand, maybe a little less. ... That's still a lot of money."

But after cross-examination by the district attorney, Judge Kaufman ruled that the amount was more than $500,000.

"She was trying to get rid of that magic five hundred thousand number by saying 'I did this,'" Hollister said. "The funny thing was, she left out a whole bunch of things. On top of that, the things she was saying were legitimate expenses she still has in her house."

How Moore did it

During her testimony, Moore said she was able to conceal the years of crime by falsifying records for the district's monthly board of directors meetings.

According to the district attorney, Moore's embezzlement ended in 2012 when she resigned as general manager. At that point, IVCSD was on the brink of being shut down by state officials.

During Moore's tenure as general manager, the district's workforce shrank from 14 employees to four. The remaining employees said they were left without appropriate equipment, had to work unpaid overtime and didn't have insurance. Moore reportedly told the employees there was no money available to pay for such things.

To support her stealing and spending, Moore had stopped repaying the district's loans with the USDA and Plumas County, stopped paying worker's compensation and unemployment insurance and failed to pay state and federal taxes, sewer permit fees, dam inspection fees, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. bills and vehicle insurance.

Moore reportedly presented the directors with filled-out checks to pay the bills for them to sign. But she didn't mail the checks. Instead, she redirected the money to herself through wire transfers, forged checks and credit card purchases.

Moore testified that she didn't have a drug or gambling problem. She said she was greedy and liked to spend money.

She purchased clothes, toys, electronics and furniture for her family. Evidence showed that Moore's family frequently bought new vehicles and would vacation a couple times each year. The vacations included trips to NASCAR races, Disney World in Florida and a cruise to the Bahamas.

Moore was suspected of making 563 personal transactions using the district's Plumas Bank debit card.

Moore surrendered to a Plumas County sheriff's deputy Nov. 21, 2013, two days after a warrant was issued for her arrest. She was jailed for two days before posting $100,000 bail.

The embezzlement scandal sent shockwaves through the Indian Valley community. A group of residents has called for the district's board members to resign.

The investigation

Frank Richardson, who succeeded Moore as the service district's general manager in 2012, alerted the district attorney's office of suspected fraud July 16, 2012.

Richardson and certified public accountant Jeff Trump, from Haws, Theobald and Auman (of Chester and Susanville), met with investigators Beatley and Jeff Wilkinson from the district attorney's office. Richardson said IVCSD had discovered questionable spending by Moore.

Richardson said it appeared the district's Plumas Bank debit card was being used excessively at different retail stores.

He said Moore's name was on the card and that she had sole access to it. Richardson told investigators that he was concerned Moore may have misused the district's money in other ways. His concerns prompted the district to hire the CPA firm to conduct an audit that covered Moore's employment as general manager.

On May 16, 2013, Haws, Theobold and Auman informed investigators that possible embezzlement occurred between July 1, 2006, and June 30, 2012.

CPA Clay Singleton wrote in the audit that the possible embezzlement was mainly in the form of payroll fraud and fraudulent cash disbursements. He said it was likely the result of forging board members' signatures.

He said payroll fraud was evident because of many unscheduled paychecks to Moore. The debit card fraud consisted of purchases at Amazon, Cabela's, Wal-Mart, Apple, Kate Spade and other retailers.

Each store was contacted by investigators. They indicated that almost all the purchased items were ordered by Moore and delivered to Moore's home address in Winnemucca.

Investigators interviewed board members that served during Moore's employment.

All the board members said they were unaware of the alleged embezzlement. They said, in addition to bookkeeping, Moore was in charge of payroll, purchasing, producing a budget and supervising the district's employees.

She was not required to share bank and business account statements with the board, they said. The board members said they never granted any additional pay to Moore, other than a 2008 pay increase.

They confirmed that all district checks (with the exception of payroll) require a signature from two board members. When checks written and cashed by Moore, which contained their signatures, were shown to board members John Schramel, Brad Smith and Judi Yocum, they all said the signatures appeared to be forged.

Schramel said he had made a signature stamp, which appeared to have been used without his knowledge.

Schramel told investigators he couldn't remember for sure when he had granted Moore permission to use his stamp, but he seemed certain that it was not for a large number of checks. Approximately 42 checks written to Moore contained Schramel's signature stamp, according to the complaint.

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