Sacramento, CA - Authorities arrested former Visalia Public Cemetery manager Dona Shores last month on charges of embezzling and laundering as much as $1.3 million over a five-year period between July 1, 2011, and June 30, 2016.
Shores was arrested on Dec. 22 on suspicion of embezzlement and money laundering charges after a year-long investigation by Visalia Police.
Attorney Kris Pederson, who represents the Visalia Cemetery, said she now believes the embezzlement dates back to 2005 when a new accounting system was adopted - and that more than $1.3 million was stolen.
Pederson said Shores was getting ready to retire at the end of 2016. Ahead of her retirement, Shores handed in the cemetery's accounting books and a forensic audit revealed the allegedly missing funds, she said,
Shores, who managed the Visalia Cemetery for nearly 20 years, was fired in late 2016 before she could officially retire.
Citing the forensic audit's findings, Pederson said cash funds had been recorded as received by the district for services, but the money was never deposited into the cemetery's bank account.
Earlier this week, Shores appeared before Tulare County Superior Court Judge Brett Alldredge. During the quick hearing, Shores spoke only once, saying she agreed to a delay on the court procedures.
Attorney Charles Magill, who's representing Shores, denied all charges. "I believe there's a government conspiracy against Ms. Shores," he said. "I believe it's politically motivated." Magill, whose office is in Fresno, said the conspiracy against Shores includes the Visalia police officers investigating the case.
Magill said Shores' arrest was retaliation for a workers' compensation case the former manager has filed. Shores was injured on the job when she was struck by a vehicle, Magill said.
Magill also lamented Shores' arrest timing. "There's no reason to arrest her on the Friday before Christmas," Magill said. "She spent Christmas in jail. That was punitive."
There's also no evidence that proves the embezzlement, Magill said. "At no time was her accounting ever out of balance," he said. "They have no evidence of money she received. Where's the money?"
Magill plans to have a new forensic accounting investigation into the cemetery's finances to help clear his client. "I will try this case and then sue the board, the cemetery and the county for malicious prosecution," he said. Read More...