SAN DIEGO – A former finance director at La Jolla Music Society who embezzled more than $650,000 from the nonprofit over a 10-year period was sentenced in federal court Thursday to 30 months in prison, prosecutors said.
Chris Benavides, 52, oversaw the budgeting process and human resources with the live music venue, where he stole an average of about $65,000 per year, Kelly Thornton of the Office of the United States Attorney Southern District of California stated in a release. He did so after regularly claiming that many staff salary increases were not possible due to budgetary constraints.
“He regularly planned his theft in advance of each fiscal year, budgeting for the amount that he would take over the next 12 months and imbedding those expenses in various budget lines,” Thornton stated about Benavides. “This ensured that none of the expense lines would show conspicuous variances when reviewed by other staff, board members or auditors.”
Investigators found that Benavides signed or forged checks for his personal benefit and made false entries in the books to hide what he was doing, attorney officials said.
“Mr. Benavides exploited his position of trust with the La Jolla Music Society by stealing month after month for over a decade,” U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman said. “His greed and deception have had a lasting impact on this non-profit. Today, he has been held to account for his crimes.”
During his sentencing, Benavides was also ordered to pay a minimum of $650,000 in restitution.