Ex-bookkeeper accused of embezzling $6M may change plea

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bailVISTA, Calif. — A change of plea may be in the works in the case of a Riverside County woman accused of embezzling nearly $6 million from her San Marcos employer, a prosecutor indicated Thursday.

Elizabeth Ann Masters, 45, is charged with several felonies, including embezzlement by an employee, grand theft, theft by false pretenses, forgery and willfully filing a false tax return, according to the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department’s online jail records.

The defendant’s preliminary hearing was scheduled for Thursday, but the proceeding was postponed while her attorney talks to her about a possible change of plea, said Deputy District Attorney Anna Winn. A status conference was set for Tuesday.

Masters was arrested in New Mexico last June 22 after she allegedly fled California to avoid prosecution on the fraud charges. She has been jailed at the Las Colinas Detention Facility in Santee in lieu of $2.1 million bail since last summer.

Masters was fired from her clothing wholesaler employer, Proformance Apparel, in December 2011 after an audit found she had forged more than 700 company payroll checks and deposited them into her personal bank accounts, sheriff’s Sgt. Mark Varnau said.

Prior to her termination, Masters worked for the company as a controller for nine years. She allegedly used much of the stolen money to buy and maintain a large horse ranch in Aguanga in rural southwestern Riverside County.

After her employers discovered the losses and reported the suspected embezzlement, Masters sold off animals and equipment from the equestrian facility and was able to repay about $500,000, the sergeant said.

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