Accountant admits stealing nearly $2M to fund luxury lifestyle

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SAN DIEGO — A former accountant for a San Diego-based metals company admitted in federal court Wednesday that he used his position of trust to steal millions of dollars that he used to fund a jet-setting lifestyle.

Edward K. Abellana, 40, faces a maximum punishment of 23 years in prison and $500,000 in fines following his guilty plea before U.S. Magistrate Judge Bernard Skomal to charges of wire fraud and filing false tax returns.

In his post as accounts-payable supervisor for the firm, Abellana used his access to company credit accounts to steal about $1.95 million between June 2012 and October 2015, according to prosecutors.

Abellana conceded that he used the embezzled funds for an array of purchases, including private-jet rentals; luxury vacations to Hawaii, Las Vegas and Disneyland; and trips to a Super Bowl and other sporting events, court documents state.

On most occasions, Abellana would simply use the firm’s credit cards to make his lavish purchases, though he also issued more than $162,000 in unauthorized company checks to pay for personal expenses, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Diego.

To conceal his fraud, the defendant intercepted the incriminating statements and used computer software to alter them, then falsified the company’s records by falsely characterizing the illicit transactions as legitimate business expenses, prosecutors said.

Additionally, Abellana admitted that he filed false tax returns, failing to report more than $661,000 on his 2012-2015 tax returns.

As part of his plea agreement, Abellana will have to reimburse the metals company the funds he stole and pay the Internal Revenue Service the income taxes he owes on the embezzled money.

After recording Abellana’s guilty plea, the judge released him on bond. The defendant’s next court appearance is scheduled for April 7.

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