Lady Justice 3 16-9

An embezzler who stole more than $22,000 while president of the PTO at Sun View Elementary School in Huntington Beach was sentenced Tuesday to 480 hours of community service.

Gail Diane Monestere found herself behind bars at one point after she pleaded guilty to the embezzlement because she failed to pay what she owed her victims. Paying restitution was part of the plea deal that was supposed to keep her out of jail.

Monestere still owes the school’s PTO $2,758.32, but Orange County Superior Court Judge Gerald Johnston allowed her to remain out of custody as she continues to pay back what she owes while serving three years of formal probation, according to Deputy District Attorney Clarissa Stone.

Monestere may also owe up to about $14,000 to a bank for racking up credit card debt on her father’s account after he died, Stone said. The defendant claims she has paid $5,000 toward that debt, but officials have not seen proof of that yet, the prosecutor said.

The exact amount of restitution to the bank, however, is to be determined, Stone said.

School officials were happy with the judge’s order of community service and probation for the defendant because they’ve gotten most of the stolen money back, Stone said.

“They’re happy campers now,” she said.

If Monestere fails to comply with the terms of her probation, which includes the community service, she could be facing up to four years in jail, Stone said.

If the defendant does complete probation successfully, she can move to have the felony count related to the credit card fraud reduced to a misdemeanor, Stone said.

Monestere’s plea agreement called for her to pay back all of the stolen money — amounting to $22,258.32 — by the end of her three-year probation, Stone said.

Monestere pleaded guilty last September to felony grand theft and misdemeanor grand theft by embezzlement by a public or private officer.

While president of the PTO, Monestere wrote unauthorized checks to herself from the organization’s bank account in amounts ranging from $250 to $800. She was the organization’s president from September 2010 to February 2011.

City News Service

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