Former Homeless Center Employee Admits Stealing More Than $70,000 in Government Checks Intended for Unhoused
NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY – April 24, 2023
SAN DIEGO – Former bookkeeper Susan Ann Sears was sentenced in federal court today to 29 months in prison for embezzling more than $765,000 from Shapery Enterprises and nearly $165,000 from Hope Campbell Realty Inc.
Sears was also ordered to pay $839,419.22 in restitution—$674,673.93 to American Express and $164,745.29 to Hope Campbell Realty.
Sears served as the bookkeeper for Shapery Enterprises from July 2018 to November 2019. As the bookkeeper, Sears had access to the business’s bank accounts, American Express credit card, and accounting programs. In her plea agreement, Sears admitted that she opened a personal American Express credit card in the name of a family member, obtained American Express cards for herself and family members, and used Shapery Enterprises’ bank account to pay the personal American Express account. Sears made the payments appear to be legitimate business expenses by entering “S. Sharpery,” which is one letter off from the CEO’s last name of Shapery.
Sears also issued herself unauthorized checks and falsified entries in the business’ accounting programs. In total, Sears stole more than $765,000 from Shapery Enterprises. Since American Express reimbursed Shapery Enterprises $674,673.93, Sears admitted that the loss to American Express was $674,673.93.
After Sears was fired from Shapery Enterprises in November 2019 and the government notified her that she was under investigation for wire fraud, Sears was employed by Hope Campbell Realty as its bookkeeper from February 2021 to November 2021. Sears again abused her position of trust and issued herself and her family members unauthorized checks. Sears also falsified entries in Hope Campbell Realty’s accounting programs to make it appear that the checks were for legitimate business purposes. Between March 2021 and November 2021, Sears stole nearly $165,000 from Hope Campbell Realty.
“Sears took advantage of her employers’ trust and treated their bank accounts as her personal piggy bank, stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars,” said U.S. Attorney Randy S. Grossman. “This defendant inflicted substantial damage to two San Diego businesses and has been held to account for her conduct.” Grossman thanked the prosecution team and the FBI for their excellent work on this case.
“Susan Ann Sears went to great lengths to defraud not one, but two of her employers. Even after learning that she was under investigation, she brazenly continued to abuse her position of trust to feed her own greed,” said Special Agent in Charge Stacey Moy of the FBI’s San Diego Field Office. “Embezzlement will always come to light—the short-term benefits are never worth the repercussions. The FBI will continue to identify and investigate those who choose to line their own pockets at the expense of others.”
DEFENDANTS Case Number 21cr3189-GPC
Susan Ann Sears Age: 64 San Diego, CA
SUMMARY OF CHARGES
Wire Fraud – Title 18, U.S.C., Section 1343
Maximum penalty: Twenty years in prison and $250,000 fine, or twice the gain/loss, whichever is greater
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Assistant U. S. Attorney Edward Chang (619) 546-7319