I am writing in regard to the pending sentencing of Cathy Latou for embezzling more than half a million dollars from the Santa Barbara Olive Company.

Ms. Latou admitted to stealing and was arrested back in March of 2009. She will be sentenced on December 15. It has come to my attention that she most likely will receive a maximum sentence of three years, which, in the current prison system, translates to 1.5 years. Even worse, at the judge’s discretion, she could potentially receive probation only. Where is the justice? How will this deter others from embezzling?

Cathy Latou was charged with 21 felony counts. She not only stole money from a company, but caused immeasurable stress and financial hardship to the owners and fellow employees-nine employees were laid off due to Ms. Latou’s need for more and more money. Since Ms. Latou’s crime, three other families have contacted the Santa Barbara Olive Co. to offer condolences and tell their stories of lives and businesses ruined by embezzlers. None of them have found justice in the Santa Barbara court system. Their embezzlers have walked free or served minimal time.

Do we really want to send the message that California is easy on crime and essentially invite these criminals into our communities? We need to hold our elected officials accountable for the inadequate punishment these criminals receive.

Each and every one of us has a voice, and I will make sure mine is heard, through whatever means necessary, to make sure that this injustice is corrected. – Debbie Niday, owner, Santa Barbara Olive Co.


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