The business manager for the Center for Spiritual Living in Santa Rosa, who is accused of stealing $712,000 from the church over a seven-year period, pleaded not guilty to theft and forgery charges this morning. Eleanor Zapanta, 51, of Guerneville, remains in custody in Sonoma County Jail on $1 million bail. Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Kenneth Gnoss denied defense attorney Richard Scott’s request to release Zapanta under supervision. Chief Deputy District Attorney William Brockley said the non-denominational church’s 1,000 members suffered a significant loss.
Brockley said Zapanta made out a number of church checks to herself between 2004 and 2010. The amount of the checks ranged between $220 and $12,900, and during an eight-month period in 2010, there were 39 fraudulent checks totaling $12,900 Brockley said. Zapanta has been charged with seven counts each of grand theft and forging business documents, and faces a maximum 12-year prison term, Brockley said. Scott said Zapanta wants to cooperate with the investigation and he expects the case to be resolved before a preliminary hearing is held.
“She’s a very religious person and still has friends in the church who support her,” Scott said. Some of those supporters and Zapanta’s two grown children were in court this morning, Scott said. Church members declined to comment on the case after the hearing. The Center for Spiritual Living promotes Religious Science, a religious movement founded by Ernest Holmes in 1949. Among other beliefs, the center emphasizes the power of the mind in achieving healing and fulfillment in life, according to its website. Zapanta is scheduled to appear again in court Oct. 12.
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