Freddy Pachon, a former vice president of risk management for Select Staffing, was sentenced Monday to eight years and eight months in prison for embezzling more than $700,000 from the Santa Barbara-based temp agency.
Between January 2008 and December 2012, Pachon funneled money from reimbursement checks related to workers’ compensation claims into a personal account he created under the fictitious business entity “Select Consulting Services.” At a previous court hearing, it was revealed that Pachon had placed his sister-in-law, Paula Orozco, in a job at AG Employment Services, the company contracted by Select Staffing to handle medical claims. Orozco testified she altered the checks then mailed them to an address provided by Pachon, on some occasions even hand-delivering them to him in the Select Staffing parking lot or at his house. Orozco was later fired from her job but avoided criminal charges.
According to prosecutors, Pachon spent the stolen funds on a lavish home and backyard renovations. At the time of his arrest, he was earning approximately $250,000 a year from Select Staffing, where he’d been working since 2001.
At the Monday hearing, Pachon’s attorney Steven Andrade admitted his client “made a horrible exercise in judgement” but deserved leniency and probation, not the 20-year prison sentence prosecutor Brian Cota had asked the judge to impose. Andrade said as soon as Select Staffing discovered Pachon’s theft, he immediately sold his home and transferred the funds to the company. He had hoped to make full restitution and not involve law enforcement, Andrade said. “Mr. Pachon was like the most cooperative suspect in the world,” he stated. Since his arrest, Pachon has been volunteering and cleaning offices part-time, and still works in risk management. “He’s really fighting for his family,” Andrade said of Pachon’s wife and young children.
Pachon’s wife, Julia Orozco, also pleaded with Judge Michael Carrozzo to show her husband compassion. “I know he did something wrong,” she said, “but he’s not a bad guy. He’s a good father.” Attorney and real estate broker John J. Thyne III, who helped Pachon sell his home, said he found him honest and well-meaning.
In arguing for a lengthy prison term, Cota stressed the depth and repetition of Pachon’s deception. “And using a family member is way beyond a typical embezzlement case,” he said. Cota said Pachon meticulously planned his scheme and deserved no credit for selling his home, as it was going to be foreclosed upon anyway. “He was just trying to save his own skin,” Cota said, noting that since his arrest Pachon has still not paid Select Staffing any of the the $250,000 or so he still owes. Instead, that money has been used to pay four different private attorneys. In addition, Cota went on, all the embezzled funds previously went toward “vanity projects” so Pachon, who has multiple ex-wives and as many as 10 children, would “look like the big guy in the office.” None of it went to his family.
More than a dozen of Pachon’s family members were present in the courtroom Monday. During a short break in the proceedings, a woman who identified herself as one of Pachon’s cousins offered to pay Independent staff photographer Paul Wellman to not publish photographs of Pachon. Wellman declined. The cousin persisted, offering to double his hourly rate and insisting he could take the money without the Independent finding out. Wellman again declined.
In handing down his sentence, Judge Carrozzo said while Pachon’s case certainly didn’t warrant probation, he also didn’t deserve 20 years behind bars. “I think the defendant is a good person who made a mistake,” Carrozzo said. He noted multiple letters of support from friends and family influenced his decision. He said he hoped Pachon, from Colombia on a work visa, would get his life back on track after prison. “I hope Mr. Pachon is still able to become an American success story,” he said.
Though Pachon was technically sentenced to eight years and eight months in prison, the credit he receives for good behavior — along with new incarceration rules guided by current and pending legislation aimed at reducing prison overcrowding — may make him eligible for parole in as little as eight months.