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Press Release

Brawley Man Sentenced for Stealing More Than $250,000 from Local Farm

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

Assistant U.S. Attorney Christine M. Ro (619)546-7937




SAN DIEGO - Former bookkeeper Claude Theodore Riley was sentenced in federal court today to 24 months in prison for embezzling from his former employer and failing to pay taxes on the stolen funds. He was also ordered to pay $273,000 in restitution to the employer and $75,000 to the Internal Revenue Service.


Riley pleaded guilty in September to wire fraud and making a false tax return in a five-year scheme in which he stole stealing from his employer, an Imperial Valley farm.  Riley stole approximately $272,984.00 from his employer, filed fraudulent tax returns, and failed to file required employment tax returns resulting in a $1.5-million-dollar tax lien against the farm.  


Riley served as the farm’s bookkeeper from 2010 to 2015, overseeing the farm’s entire annual budget.  As the bookkeeper, Riley had access to the farm’s bank accounts, paychecks, and bookkeeping records.  Riley forged certain IRS documents to hide his embezzlement from the employer.  For his scheme, Riley made 148 transactions out of the employer’s bank account, fictitiously entered various vendors to be paid into the bookkeeping records, and generated checks made payable to himself.


“His employer trusted Riley to safeguard the fruits of their labor, but he diverted hundreds of thousands of those hard-earned dollars into his own pocket,” said U.S. Attorney Adam Braverman. “Today, the defendant pays the price for his deception.”


“Mr. Riley took advantage of the trust of his employer for his own benefit,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Eric S. Birnbaum. “Today, justice is served for this Imperial Valley farm family.  This case is an excellent example to illustrate how the FBI works to uncover fraud schemes that have a significant impact on the Valley's hard-working farming industry.”


The farming industry is an important source of Imperial Valley’s economy and producer of agriculture for the nation.  Imperial Valley is one of California’s top producers of agriculture, which generates income for local families in the Southern District of California. 


DEFENDANT                                               Criminal Case No. 17CR2721-BAS


Claude Theodore Riley                                   Age: 56           Brawley, California   




Wire Fraud – Title 18, U.S.C., Section 1343

Maximum penalty: 20 years’ imprisonment and $250,000 fine


Filing a False Tax Return – Title 26, U.S.C., Section 7206(1)

Maximum penalty: 3 years’ imprisonment and $250,000 fine




Federal Bureau of Investigation, Imperial County Resident Agency

Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation

Brawley Police Department



Updated December 5, 2017

Financial Fraud
Press Release Number: CAS17-1204-Riley