A Petaluma woman was sentenced today to 90 days in jail and three years’ probation for stealing money from her former grandchildren, Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch said.
Kendall Yvonne Mathis, 44, who pleaded no contest to one count of felony grand theft in December, also was ordered to pay $39,824 in restitution to the stepchildren, Ravitch said.
Five years ago Mathis married a widower who had two children, Ravitch said. The widower’s first wife had died of cancer when the children were very young.
Because the first wife was initially misdiagnosed, a settlement was reached between the family and the medical professionals who misdiagnosed her, Ravitch said.
Under the settlement, an annuity was established for both children’s college education, whereby each of them were to receive four yearly payments starting on their 18th birthday, Ravitch said.
However, Mathis intercepted and cashed the first annuity check when the first child turned 18, and she spent the money to support her lavish lifestyle, Ravitch said.
The theft was discovered when the older child tried to find the annuity funds to pay her college expenses.
Further investigation showed Mathis also stole money from each child’s savings account, Ravitch said.
Mathis also used her husband’s identity to apply for a student loan for her own child, Ravitch said.
The thefts were undetected for some time because Mathis, who previously worked in banking, assumed control of the family’s finances, Ravitch said.
The widower and his two children spoke at the sentencing before Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Julie Conger, Ravitch said.
Ravitch said the widower’s first wife was comforted, even when in severe pain, by the knowledge her two children would be able to attend college.
Ravitch also said the widower shared that information with Mathis, increasing his sense of betrayal.
“This tragic case is a very sad example of the fact that financial crimes cause serious and lasting injury to the victims who have fallen prey to those they should have been able to trust and rely upon,” Ravitch said.
Deputy District Attorney Robin Hammond prosecuted the case, and District Attorney’s Office investigator LaRae Archibald and Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office detective Tony King also worked on the case.