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Press Release

Former Administrator at Los Angeles Law Firm Sentenced to 5 Years in Federal Prison for Embezzling from Her Employer

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Central District of California

LOS ANGELES – A former administrator of a Los Angeles law firm was sentenced today to 60 months in federal prison for embezzling more than $3.3 million from her employer.

Esterlina Santos, 53, who resides in the Ladera Heights district of Los Angeles, was also ordered by United States District Judge Beverly Reid O’Connell to pay $3,322,161 in restitution to her former employer and $781,109 to the Internal Revenue Service.

Santos pleaded guilty in June to one count of mail fraud and one count of subscribing to a false tax return.

According to court documents, from 2004 to August 2010, Santos fraudulently obtained approximately $3,322,161 from the Law Offices of Robert Smylie and Associates (RSA). While serving as the firm administrator for RSA, Santos used QuickBooks software to generate checks from RSA’s operating account to pay for expenses for her personal credit accounts, including those associated with American Express, Bank of America and Capital One.

After Santos generated checks from RSA’s operating account and mailed them to pay her personal credit accounts, she used QuickBooks to alter the checks to falsely reflect that they were paid to RSA’s vendors for services purportedly provided. 

When she pleaded guilty, Santos admitted that she received $2,448,794 of income she failed to report to the IRS during the 2007 through 2010 tax years.

Santos was ordered to begin serving her sentence on January 4.

The investigation into Santos was conducted by IRS Criminal Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Updated May 7, 2018

Press Release Number: 15-157