VISTA – After the controller siphoned millions of dollars from a San Marcos screen printing company for almost a decade, she was sentenced to nine years in prison.
Proformance Apparel Group, LLC shut its doors for good and filed for bankruptcy two years after discovering that Elizabeth Ann Masters, 45, the company’s controller, had ultimately been cutting herself extra paychecks that equaled more the twenty times her wages. These thefts began in 2003 when Masters, who was supposed to be making $50,000 annually, first arranged for a second paycheck. Following this crime, she continued to increase the number of monthly paychecks she received and the amount of money she was making annually. By 2011 her annual take home pay was more than $1.2 million.
The owners of the company, Debbie and Richard Sawyer realized in late 2011 that something was amiss with the books, and after investigation revealed the misappropriation of funds, fired Masters. The Sawyers had considered Masters a close friend and had even invited her to their daughter’s wedding. Richard Sawyer is suffering from cancer and the couple had drained all of their savings to keep the company, which had once employed more than 90 people, afloat. Masters was said to have been using the stolen money to care for over 100 horses she kept at her Aguanga ranch in rural southwest Riverside County.
After being fired from Proformance, Masters moved to Albuquerque where she was hired in another accounting position. In 2012 she was arrested and extradited to San Diego County to face embezzlement charges. Last month Masters pleaded guilty to four felonies including forgery and tax fraud in exchange for a nine-year prison sentence. On Tuesday April 16, Masters was sentenced and Vista Superior Court Judge David Berry ordered Masters to pay $5.7 million in restitution as well as more than $650,000 to the Franchise Tax Board, which is money she owes for failing to claim her embezzled income.
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