Embezzlement Suspect Pleads Guilty

Former VP of Santa Barbara Bay Foods Stole $1.1 Million

Lisa Sackie — a Solvang resident who embezzled $1.1 million from her former employer Santa Barbara Bay Foods over a nearly six-year period — has pleaded guilty to charges of mail fraud that could land her up to 40 years in prison. According to federal prosecutors, Sackie — the former vice president and controller of the Buelton-based gourmet deli foods company — issued a number of company checks to pay her own financial obligations from 2004 to 2010.

Over the course of her scheme, Sackie’s job responsibilities at Santa Barbara Bay Foods — which included overseeing the company’s accounts payable activities and signing checks on the company’s behalf — proved essential to her deception. Sackie, 47, concealed her fraud by recording the embezzled money as legitimate company expenditures. She issued 47 checks totaling over $750,000 to herself or to her financial obligations, which she later recorded in the accounts payable system as expenditures to Challenge Dairy company.

In 2009, Sackie began diverting company money to pay her personal credit card debt. In August 2009, Sackie mailed a company check for more than $18,000 to American Express, which she later recorded as a payment to bagging manufacturer Atlapac. Three months later, Sackie issued another check for over $20,000 to American Express, again recording that the money had been sent to Atlapac.

On several occasions, Sackie diverted additional company funds to “a close companion,” according to the plea agreement. She issued a number of embezzled checks to Sundance Productions, a New Jersey-based video production business with which her companion was affiliated.

Sackie also took steps to cover cash flow shortfalls resulting from her scheme. She repeatedly requested funds from Future Foods — a Texas-based partnership that owns Santa Barbara Bay Foods — to replace the money that she had diverted for personal use.

In early 2010, Sackie’s fraud was discovered and the FBI launched an investigation that eventually led to mail fraud charges, so named because of the method in which Sackie conducted her embezzlement. Sackie is scheduled for sentencing on November 7.

Santa Barbara-based attorney Robert Sanger — who is defending Sackie — declined to comment on the case because his client’s sentencing is pending. Santa Barbara Bay Foods did not return a request for comment by the time of this article’s publication.

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