Accountant gets prison for embezzling $273K from farm

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SAN DIEGO — A Brawley man was sentenced in federal court in San Diego to two years in prison for stealing about $273,000 from his employers while working as a bookkeeper for an Imperial Valley farm.

Claude Theodore Riley, 56, pleaded guilty in September to wire fraud and making a false tax return in connection with his five-year embezzlement scheme, which ultimately resulted in the issuance of a $15 million tax lien against his workplace.

While serving as an accountant for the farm from 2010 to 2015, Riley oversaw its entire annual budget and had access to its bank accounts, paychecks and bookkeeping records, court documents state.

To facilitate his crimes, he forged IRS documents, falsified business records and generated checks made payable to himself, according to prosecutors.

As part of his sentence Monday, Riley was ordered to reimburse the victims in full and make good on $75,000 in unpaid taxes.

“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,” U.S. Attorney Adam Braverman said. “Today, the defendant pays the price for his deception.”