Update: Bookkeeper sentenced for embezzling funds from local companies
Update posted April 8
–A former Paso Robles bookkeeper has been sentenced to five years in state prison Thursday for embezzling over $700,000 from local company Make it Manufacturing and about $55,000 from the Paso Robles Youth Sports Council, a non-profit where she was formerly the treasurer, according to reports. Evidence showed that Serda forged over 450 financial documents to facilitate the embezzlement.
Denna Carol Serda, 56, could potentially be eligible for parole in about a year and a half.
Serda pleaded no contest at a A restitution hearing is scheduled for May 5.
Update posted March 24, 2015:
–New details emerged today in the case of a local woman accused of embezzling over $700,000. The Paso Robles Police Department responded to a public records request from the Paso Robles Daily News and provided additional information, including the victims’ identities. According to Paso Robles Police Department Detective Sergeant Tod Rehner, the case is a two victim case, and the police have filed charges for one of those victims. The two victims are Make it Manufacturing and the Paso Robles Youth Sports Council. The current charges and monetary amounts stem from Make It Manufacturing in Paso Robles. Suspect Denna Serda worked for them from 2008 up until this was discovered. The embezzled amount of over $700,000 was from that business alone, according to police.
The second embezzlement is still under investigation as the police go through financial records. The second victim is the nonprofit agency Paso Robles Youth Sports Council, where she also was a bookkeeper. Once the police have a monetary loss for PRYSC, they will amend the filing and add a second set of charges to the case.
Greg Powell, the owner of Make it Manufacturing, confirmed that his company was the first victim. “I am at a loss for words,” he said. He said he knew the Serdas, both Denna and her husband Steve, for years, and considered them friends. “That’s probably what hurts the most.” Powell said that it was the IRS who noted the discrepancy, sending a summons to his house for unaccounted for funds. “It was over a long period of time, and our business is still doing well despite,” he said.
Field Gibson, a board member of PRYSC and one of the original founders of the organization, heard about the charges pressed against Serda regarding her embezzling funds from Make it Manufacturing, and immediately notified the board that she was unfit to be their bookkeeper. An emergency board meeting was called, where the Serdas, who were both on the board, resigned, admitting that the charges that Gibson brought to the board’s attention regarding funds taken from Make it Manufacturing were justified. At that time, there was no admission of embezzlement from PRYSC, but once the board launched a forensic investigation of all of their financial records, Serda admitted that they would find discrepancies amounting to or surpassing $30,000, according Gibson.
“Steve (Serda) and I were kind of the original founders or PRYSC,” Gibson said. “I have known the Serdas for almost 20 years and worked with them coaching youth sports. It was really shocking.” Gibson said that PRYSC don’t know how Serda was able to access the funds, as neither she or her husband were signatories on the nonprofit’s bank account. “I met with Mark (Dart), Jeff (Paul) and we sat down and had a meeting with Police Chief Robert Burton, and we essentially asked him, ‘How could this have happened?’ We thought we had procedures in place to prevent things like this. Robert told us that if someone is going to steal from you, they will find a way.”
Gibson said that PRYSC is going through all of their financial records from the last eight years, and that they hope to have information complied and ready to present to the police by some time next week. Currently, PRYSC is trying to also look to the future and continue what they do, which is creating and supporting youth sports organizations and providing a forum through which independent sports groups can advise and petition the City of Paso Robles and area schools on matters relating to youth athletic activities in Paso Robles.
“I’m not saying that it’s good to steal from an adult, but to steal from children? It’s just… unbelievable,” Gibson said.
Mark Dart, the current board president of the PRYSC, said that he too was shocked. “Steve (Serda) was the president of the board at the time, and Denna was treasurer,” he said, explaining that they both stepped down when Gibson brought the Make it Manufacturing claims to their attention. “Steve was one of the original founders,” he said. “We were in shock, you know, you put so much trust in a person…”
Dart said that PRYSC is now, “trying to look forward.” He confirmed that Steve Serda was the president of the board “on and off,” since it’s inception in 2005, and Denna had been treasurer since about 2007.
Original story posted March 23:
On January 26, 2015, two businesses located in Paso Robles — one a non-profit agency and the other a manufacturing business — filed complaints with the Paso Robles Police Department in regard to possible embezzlement. It was alleged that a mutual bookkeeper, Denna Serda, 56 of Paso Robles, may have been embezzling funds from the businesses between 2008 and 2014.
As a result of an extensive investigation, the Paso Robles Police Department Detective Bureau served warrants on Serda’s residence and bank accounts. With the assistance of investigators from the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney, detectives searched several hundred financial documents and were able to corroborate a significant loss via embezzlement.
The police are not identifying the victims of the crimes. “Because they are victims, we are not releasing their names unless given the nod to do so,” says Sergeant Tod Rehner. The Paso Robles Daily News is filing a public records request for more information under the California Public Records Act.
The analysis of financial documents revealed probable cause that Serda embezzled over $700,000 from the manufacturing company alone. Included in the financial documents was additional evidence that Serda may have forged over 450 financial documents to facilitate the embezzlement. On March 20, detectives secured a felony arrest warrant for Serda.
Serda subsequently turned herself in and was booked into the San Luis Obispo County Jail with bail set at $1,200,000. Serda was booked for the following charges and criminal enhancements:
• Grand theft exceeding $950: a felony
• Forgery: a felony
• Denial of probation for thefts exceeding $100,000 (criminal enhancement)
• Taking property over $50,000 (criminal enhancement)
• Aggravated white collar crime over $100,000 (criminal enhancement)
The investigation is ongoing as there are additional financial documents from the non-profit agency that need to be compiled.