Photo by Gustavo Castillo [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by Gustavo Castillo [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A former officer manager for Holy Family Cathedral School in Orange was arrested Tuesday on charges of embezzling more than $400,000 from her employer over a five-year period.

Adela Maria Tapia, 40, of Tustin, was arrested outside Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana as she was dropping off one of her children for school, according to Senior Deputy District Attorney Marc Labreche.

Tapia is accused of using some of the approximately $438,000 she allegedly stole from September 2006 to September 2011 on tuition for her children at Holy Family Cathedral School and Mater Dei, Labreche said.

Tapia coordinated Holy Family’s fundraising program using “scrip cards,” which are essentially like cash cards. The school, like most nonprofits, buys the cards at a discount and sells them at face value, pocketing the profit, Labreche said.

Tapia is accused of taking scrip cards from the school’s safe, selling them and keeping the profits from those who paid cash, Labreche said. She is also accused of ordering scrip cards, which she also sold and kept cash payments, Labreche said.

Tapia allegedly sold the cards to family members, including an ordained deacon in the Diocese of Orange, Labreche said.

Her alleged motive was “lifestyle enhancement using other people’s money,” Labreche said.

The alleged scheme was uncovered when Tapia was transferred to an officer manager job, Labreche said. Her replacement found $120,000 in scrip cards were missing and called police in Orange, Labreche said.

The Diocese of Orange released the following statement:

“In 2012 Holy Family Cathedral School in Orange discovered that an employee had violated the trust of the school and parish through their mismanagement of the school’s scrip program. This employee was immediately released from their employment at the school after the irregularities in the scrips program were discovered and the matter was referred to law enforcement. After an exhaustive investigation the Orange County District Attorney has decided to pursue several criminal charges in this case.”

The school has since “instituted more robust financial controls to ensure this issue is not repeated,” according to the statement.

Labreche said the Diocese has been fully cooperative in the investigation.

Tapia, who is charged with two felony counts of grand theft by embezzlement and 13 felony counts of money laundering, was scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday. She could face up to 14 years and four months in prison if she is convicted at trial.

The case took several years to investigate because of its complexity, Labreche said.

“There’s 83,000 pages of discovery (evidence) in this case,” Labreche said.

City News Service

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