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A former lay employee of a Roman Catholic convent in Los Gatos pleaded guilty in federal court in San Jose today to 17 counts of fraud related to the alleged embezzlement of $100,000 from the organization. Linda Gomez, 66, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Lowell Jensen to all counts in a 2011 grand jury indictment, including 14 counts of wire fraud and three counts of mail fraud. Gomez worked for the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary Catholic Convent from 1987 to 2010 in several administrative positions, including jobs as food services director and manager of an on-site convenience store. The convent houses 75 nuns and has 60 lay employees. The nuns provide services in religious education, family counseling and aid to people who are elderly, poor or ill.
U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag said Gomez admitted during the plea to using her positions to embezzle cash and charge personal purchases to a convent credit card. The indictment alleged Gomez fraudulently diverted a total of more than $100,000 from the convent, including more than $47,000 in cash and more than $53,000 in purchases of personal items such as jewelry, shoes, purses and kitchen appliances between 2008 and 2010. Gomez, also known as Linda Surrett, formerly lived in Sunnyvale and moved with her husband last year to a retirement community in Chandler, Ariz., according to court papers.
Gomez will be sentenced by Jensen in San Jose on March 28. The maximum penalty for each fraud count is 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine. Gomez can also be ordered to pay restitution in an amount to be determined by the court. The indictment alleged that Gomez used several techniques to embezzle funds, including having items bought with a convent credit card shipped to a family member’s address, submitting false expense reports, and canceling purchases and then diverting refunds to herself.
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