Russell Eugene Dunbar. Photo courtesy of the Santa Ana Police Department
Russell Eugene Dunbar. Photo courtesy of the Santa Ana Police Department

A former controller of a Santa Ana piano company Saturday may be wishing he stuck to playing the piano instead of playing around with the books – he’s been sentenced in Santa Ana Superior Court to 18 years in state prison for embezzling at least $5.6 million from the business.

Prior to his sentencing, Russell Eugene Dunbar, 58, had been convicted on Oct. 21 of 17 counts of forgery, 17 counts of falsifying records and 16 counts grand theft — all felonies — along with sentencing enhancements for committing aggravated white collar crime over $500,000 and causing property damage over $2.5 million, said Roxi Fyad of the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.

The owners of long-established Fields Piano hired Dunbar, who they considered a friend, in 2001, Fyad said.

However, beginning in or around 2003, Dunbar opened a bank account using the fictitious business name Fields Piano Company, Fyad said.

Dunbar then began depositing into his own personal account checks for large amounts of money that he got from the business owners, according to Fyad.

Dunbar then wrote checks for smaller amounts from his personal account and deposited them into the Fields Piano Company account, using the bank receipts to construct altered receipts, Fyad said.

“He then falsely told the owners of Fields Piano that large amounts of money were put into their account even though the deposits were never made,” Fyad said.

“The business owners subsequently paid taxes on the income they thought they had received and were unaware of the losses.” The sentence was handed down Friday.

Dunbar stole at least $5.6 million, but maybe as much as $6.8 million from the company in the course of three years before leaving in late 2005 to invest in a mortgage company that failed in 2006, according to prosecutors.

The theft remained undetected until early 2010, when Dunbar sent a threatening letter to the owners claiming he was owed over $300,000 for real estate transactions,” Fyad said.

The owners then began looking into the transactions, discovered the losses and notified police, she said.

— City News Service

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