Friday, June 29, 2012

Mosquito Coast: Corruption in (GASP!) Free Will's Hometown

I don't think any one group of people or political party have a monopoly on political corruption, but there's a grubby money-in-envelopes culture that is pervasive among Democrats, and the bluer your neighborhood gets, the more brazen it can be. Here in Burlingame, we have a major embezzlement scandal arising from a local agency called, get this, The Mosquito & Vector Control District, which sounds like a no-show sinecure for precinct walkers. Talk about draining the swamp...
The former finance director and accounting supervisor of the county’s mosquito and vector control district will stand trial on charges they embezzled nearly a half-million dollars from the agency. 
Joanne Seeney, 61, and Vika Sinipata, 35, have both pleaded not guilty but, after a preliminary hearing Friday, were held to answer on eight counts of embezzling public money. The defense argued the thefts were one continuous act and should not be charged as multiple counts for several incidents, according to the prosecution. 
They return to court July 17 to enter a Superior Court plea and possibly set a trial date. 
Seeney, who worked for the San Mateo County Mosquito and Vector Control District under the name Jo Ann Dearman, already has one embezzlement conviction under her belt. The pair’s alleged swindling of more than $400,000 from the district, which is funded with taxpayer dollars, helped set off a pending recommendation by an oversight group that the agency be dissolved and its duties taken over by the county. 
 Prosecutors say Dearman, then district finance director, and Sinipata, her bookkeeper assistant and accounting supervisor, embezzled the funds between 2009 and 2011 by giving themselves extra pay at a higher pay rate and fraudulent time off, excessively contributed to their deferred compensation funds, used credit cards for personal purchases and electronically transferred money into their own accounts. The audit reported more than $635,000 was missing, much of it in the last fiscal year. The district contacted the County Counsel’s Office which in turn handed the matter to the District Attorney’s Office which charged them with stealing more than $450,000. The district’s numbers might be closer to the actual loss but prosecutors are only alleging the amount they can prove.
Seeney, the ringleader, worked at the District under the name "Jo Ann Dearman." Normally, you'd think you wouldn't hire a finance director with an alias, but that's probably because I'm a hateful right-winger. Also, Dearman/Seeney had an interesting past in that she had already been convicted of embezzlement of a previous (or perhaps contemporaneous, the linked article is a little vague on this point) employer, and even spent time in prison while employed by the Mosquito District.

At the time of Dearman’s employment, she had been prosecuted in two different embezzlement cases, including one in which she ran up more than a half-million dollars on her boss’ credit card. She was sentenced to two years and eight months in prison on the two cases and ordered to pay restitution. Dearman was still employed by the district when she went on medical leave to begin serving that sentence.

The punchline? Dearman/Seeney used her medical leave from the District to take time off to serve her prison sentence! Pretty good for government work. 

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