California Bar Journal
CBJ - May 2009 #04.
Ex-employee charged with embezzling $675,820
California Bar Journal May 2009 Ex-employee charged with embezzling $675,820A former State Bar employee was arrested last month and charged with embezzling more than $675,000 from the bar to pay for "spa treatments, designer clothes, lavish meals and fancy hotel rooms."
Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. filed seven criminal charges against Sharon Pearl, 51, including one count of embezzlement and six counts of filing false tax returns. Pearl was fired from her position as director of real property in October.
"The defendant embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars from the State Bar of California over a period of eight years," Brown said in a statement. "She was responsible for collecting rent for the State Bar, but instead used the money to pay for spa treatments, designer clothes, lavish meals and fancy hotel rooms."
The bar purchased its headquarters building in 1999, inheriting tenants who leased retail and office space in the building. Pearl handled building management and was responsible for collecting rent. She covered her thefts by maintaining dual books and falsifying documents and reports to the Finance Office.
State Bar Deputy Executive Director Robert Hawley said Pearl was a trusted employee whose alleged crimes shocked her co-workers. "She presented herself as a staunch State Bar defender and advocate. It was a stunning and total betrayal," he said.
According to prosecutors, as early as 2002, Pearl had set up an arrangement whereby tenants gave rent checks directly to her or delivered them to her attention at the bar's front desk. Some checks were to be made payable to "PLOT - The State Bar of California." PLOT stood for Piedmont Light Opera Theatre, a group Pearl served as treasurer.
She deposited some of the checks into accounts held by the theatre company, and as a signatory on those accounts, Pearl then transferred the money to her personal bank account.
Pearl's scheme was uncovered last year when she...