A former lay employee of a Roman Catholic convent in Los Gatos was sentenced in federal court in San Jose Thursday to one year and two months in prison for a fraud conviction related to her embezzlement of $110,000. Linda Gomez, 67, was also ordered by U.S. District Judge Lowell Jensen to pay $110,000 in restitution to the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary Catholic Convent.
Gomez worked for convent from 1987 to 2010, starting as a cook, later becoming food services director and eventually becoming manager for housekeeping and purchasing. Prosecutors said she embezzled money from the convent and the nuns in several different ways beginning in 2008. The techniques included buying items with a convent credit card and having them shipped to a family member’s address; submitting false expense reports; and making purchases, canceling them and diverting the refunds to herself.
Gomez also made small purchases requested by individual nuns, such as birthday or retirement presents for others, and then submitted receipts to both the convent and individual nuns’ accounts, prosecutors said. In all, Gomez embezzled more than $47,000 in cash and used convent funds to buy more than $53,000 worth of items for herself, such as jewelry, shoes and kitchen appliances, between 2008 and 2010, according to U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag.
Gomez, who formerly lived in Sunnyvale and now lives in Chandler, Ariz., pleaded guilty before Jensen in October to 14 counts of wire fraud and three counts of mail fraud. The convent houses 75 nuns who provide religious education, family counseling and aid to people who are elderly, poor or ill. It has 60 lay employees. Most of the resident nuns are elderly, with an average age of 76 and some who are in their 90s, prosecutors said in a sentencing brief. Haag said that in pronouncing the sentence, Jensen considered factors that Gomez abused a position of trust and misrepresented she was acting on behalf of a religious organization.
The one-year, two-month sentence was in a middle ground between the two years, six months sought by prosecutors and defense attorneys’ request for home confinement without prison time. Prosecutors said in a sentencing brief that Gomez acted out of “pure greed.” Defense attorneys said she was devoted to the nuns, but came under financial and emotional stress from family problems including her husband’s late-stage cancer. The strain caused her to “embark on a compulsive pattern of shopping and cash withdrawals using the convent’s corporate credit cards,” federal defenders wrote in a sentencing brief. Jensen ordered Gomez to begin serving her sentence on Dec. 4.
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