$650K Embezzlement – La Jolla Music Society’s Former Music Finance Director Pleads Guilty
SAN DIEGO – A plea of “guilty” by Chris Benavides in federal court this week revealed 10 years of wire- fraud while serving as the non-profit’s director of finance. $650,000 embezzled funds were taken by the employee of the La Jolla Music Society.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation released results of a hearing before U.S. Magistrate Barbara Major, where Benavides (52) of San Diego admitted abusing access to the company’s accounting software.
Over the 10-year period, he issued unauthorized checks to himself between October 2011 and February 2021.
Last year, on 02/22/2021, The La Jolla Music Society discovered Benavides’s financial-fraud activity and contacted law enforcement. Money had been used to pay personal expenses, including his mortgage and credit cards – but concealed by manipulating accounting records to appear as legitimate business expenses.
“I hope this guilty plea provides a sense of closure and justice for the victims,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Suzanne Turner. “Crimes such as this can have a devastating impact on both the employer and the local community, and further shake the confidence of the donors whose charitable contributions provide critical support for non-profit organizations.
Sentencing is scheduled for May 5, 2022 at 9 a.m. before U.S. District Judge Cathy Ann Bencivengo, where the Maximum penalty will be twenty years in prison and $250,000 fine, or twice the gain/loss, whichever is greater for charges of Wire Fraud – Title 18, U.S.C., Section 1343.
U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman thanked the prosecution team and FBI agents for their excellent work on this case, and added, “Fraud perpetrated against non-profit organizations is particularly troubling. This defendant abused his position of trust to enrich himself and will be held accountable for his crime.”