A Hayward woman charged with embezzling tens of thousands of dollars from the company she worked for was sentenced in a San Mateo County courtroom Friday. A judge sentenced Jennifer Morris to 9 months in county jail for felony embezzlement and gave her 5 years probation. In addition, Morris must pay $49,596.28 in restitution to her former employer, St. Patrick’s Seminary and University in Menlo Park, according to the San Mateo County district attorney. On June 17, Morris pleaded no contest to the charges. In 2004, Morris began working as the Director of Finance for the seminary. The crimes first began sometime in 2006, when Morris first received a company credit card for work-related purposes, prosecutors said. Over the course of six years, instead of using the company credit card, Morris used her personal credit card to make seminary purchases. She then reimbursed herself from seminary funds, according to prosecutors. Morris used her personal credit card for the work-related purchases so that she could collect airline miles on her credit card, prosecutors said. When her employer learned of her actions, the seminary decided to conduct an audit which showed that Morris had made over $166,000 in unauthorized personal purchases for which she also reimbursed herself using seminary funds, according to prosecutors.
The audit revealed Morris had also overpaid herself at least $36,000 in 2011 and 2012, prosecutors said. Morris had also stolen a 1982 Mercedes Benz that had been donated to the seminary, by registering the car in her own name and charging the registration and maintenance costs to the seminary, according to prosecutors. The audit also showed that Morris made unauthorized severance payments to her secretary, Evelyn Vallacqua, who is a co-defendant in Morris’ case, according to prosecutors. Vallacqua also assisted Morris with the issuance of many of the improper reimbursement checks, prosecutors said. On May 14, Vallacqua pleaded no contest to felony embezzlement on condition of no state prison time, 90 days in county jail and a truthful testimony, according to prosecutors. Vallacqua will appear in court on Aug. 28 for sentencing. Morris’ defense attorney was not immediately available for comment.
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