The former human resources manager at a Santa Clarita race car design and development firm was sentenced Friday to more than four years behind bars for scheming to defraud her then-employer out of more than $1.7 million earmarked for diversity recruitment.
Judith Fernandez-Adelugba, 45, of Stevenson Ranch, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge John Walter, who ordered her to pay $1.74 million in restitution along with the 51-month federal prison term, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
At the hearing in downtown Los Angeles, the judge said Fernandez-Adelugba was “driven by pure greed” and that her criminal conduct had left her former boss “shaken to the core.”
Fernandez-Adelugba pleaded guilty in August 2021 to one federal count of wire fraud.
As the design company’s chief human resources manager, she was responsible for diversity recruitment, which included implementing and managing programs to encourage persons from diverse gender, racial, ethnic and other backgrounds to apply for jobs with her employer. She also had the authority to approve the payment of invoices of up to $25,000.
To assist her in the scheme, Fernandez-Adelugba recruited her father, George Fernandez, 75, of Stevenson Ranch, and Alex Lawrence Wilkison, 49, of Canyon Country, who was married to Fernandez-Adelugba’s work colleague. George Fernandez was the president and CEO of the Stevenson Ranch-based company, Business Solutions Services. Wilkison was the registered owner of Engineering Talent Connect, a fictitious business name registered to an address in Mission Hills.
From March 2015 until her resignation in February 2018, Fernandez-Adelugba, her father and Wilkison used BSS and ETC to embezzle design company funds — money they used for their own personal enrichment. Participants in the scheme submitted fake invoices issued by BSS and ETC that requested payment for diversity recruitment-related services purportedly performed. These “services” included posting job openings, placing job-related advertisements, searching for candidates and successfully recruiting candidates for Fernandez-Adelugba’s employer.
The woman approved the fake invoices for payment, delivered them to her company’s accounting department, and followed up to request and facilitate payment of the fake invoices.
After the firm issued payments on the bogus bills, Fernandez-Adelugba and her co-schemers used their illicit gains for personal expenditures such as trips to Las Vegas, credit card bills and dining at restaurants. She also paid kickbacks to her co-schemers and kept more than $1.1 million of the scheme’s ill-gotten gains, which she used for her personal benefit.
Federal prosecutors wrote that because of the defendant’s “greed and selfishness, many worthy diverse engineers may have been denied potential careers” at the race car design and development firm.
Wilkison pleaded guilty in November 2020 to one count of wire fraud and is serving a six-month federal prison sentence. Walter ordered Wilkison to pay $183,600 in restitution.
George Fernandez has agreed to pay $103,140 in restitution to the design company as part of a pretrial diversion agreement with federal prosecutors. In September 2021, he was charged with “misprision of a felony” for failing to report his daughter’s act of wire fraud despite knowing of her criminal conduct.