Santa Barbara Sheriffs officers ended a “lengthy and detailed” investigation into funds missing from a Santa Barbara Card Payment Solutions office. Charlene Cortez-Avila, who formerly worked at the credit card processing firm, turned herself into authorities on Thursday, January 17, and admitted to having embezzled $559,000 from her employer between October 2004 and June 2007. A statement from Sheriff spokesperson Alex Tipolt noted that investigators had been looking into the case since July 2007, when higher-ups at Card Payment Solutions noted $440,000 missing and suspicious transactions connected with Cortez-Avila, who was laid off from the job last June. Tipolt’s statement noted how investigators think Cortez-Avila was able to divert the money: “Avila embezzled $559,000.00 by altering the course of a bank transaction between Card Payment Solutions and their banking institution, and sending these funds into her personal accounts. Cortez-Avila became so proficient in hiding these transactions, she began to embezzle more and more money where the dollar amounts and number of transfers increased over the months, and in some cases were as much as $52, 000 a month.”
Once Sheriff’s officers had enough evidence, a warrant was issued for Cortez-Avila’s arrest. She then turned herself in, whereupon she was arrested and charged with embezzlement. She is being held in lieu of $557,000 bail, an amount that Tipolt said was relative to the amount of money she allegedly took.