Woman accused of embezzling from middle school
by Peter Burke
Jan 05, 2012 | 9394 views | 105 105 comments | 50 50 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A 42-year-old Ben Lomond woman allegedly embezzled more than $9,000 from the San Lorenzo Valley Middle School Panther Club while acting as treasurer of the organization.

Sheriff’s deputies issued the woman a citation with a court date for felony embezzlement. She is accused of embezzling money during her nearly 18 months as treasurer of the Panther Club.

“She had access to the money because of her position as treasurer,” said Sheriff’s Detective Jake Ainsworth. “And she had the ability to write checks and collect excess cash generated through fundraisers.”

Ainsworth said the embezzlement likely started in late 2010 and that the woman was acting alone. She was removed as treasurer in July 2011, apparently after questions arose about the funds raised by the club.

“There is an ongoing investigation right now,” said middle school principal Jeff Calden in December. “The parent club brought information to the school, we presented it to the district office and they contacted the Sheriff’s Office.”

The woman is scheduled to appear in court in early February.

Ainsworth and Sgt. Jim Ross noted the sensitivity of this case due to the nature of the school fundraising in difficult economic times and that the woman has children in the district.

Ross noted that Panther Club is completely separate from San Lorenzo Valley High School’s Booster Club, the main fundraising arm for the high school.

Comments
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Professor Pat
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March 10, 2012
See my earlier comments in January in which I explained how embezzlers often justify their thefts as temporary "loans," convincing themselves that they fully intend to pay it back once they get back on their feet again, etc. Sounds like Stephanie fits the prototype quite nicely. She should've offered to pay back the $9K when she had the chance....
BEN L.
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March 15, 2012
How do you know this? Nothings been determined yet...
Another BL Resident
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March 15, 2012
Professor Pat surfaces again! You seem to know everything before all the facts come out. I don't care if you are a lawyer, professor, or whatever. You are a bad apple in our community that preys on issues having nothing to do with you. Get a life and move away.
so confused
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February 17, 2012
I've heard from several people Stephanie told them she was authorized a "Loan" from the school. Is this even possible? Who was the President of the Parent's Club, I could use an interest-free (and apparently Principle-free) loan myself.
Confucious Say
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February 21, 2012
Anita Stoddard was then-president of the organization. No one authorized a loan for SO. The money raised belongs to the school, not to the club. The club only acts as a trustee for the expenditures of the money raised. Stephanie was also given the opportunity to pay the money back to avoid having the case turned over to the sherriff. She didn't pay it back. Her husband didn't even know about the theft until it hit the paper because she was too scared to tell him. Her arraignment is set for the 28th or 29th.
SLV person
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February 01, 2012
What about the other organizations in which she was involved in and if/when she collected money (Mountain Dream/SLV Softball/Basketball etc? Will those groups be audited?
BC Rec
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February 02, 2012
SLV person, please know you facts before you start listing organization's names. She was NOT involved directly with any of the organizations you just mentioned. KNOW YOUR FACTS BEFORE YOU SPEAK!!!!!
SLV person
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February 02, 2012
BC REC- First- learn to read before you post- comment said "If"- AND, so you are saying that the family NEVER collected money on behalf of those organizations, you really sure about that...... ?
BC Rec
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February 03, 2012
Oh, I see, those two words get you off the hook? Mighty clever of you. My point is you are listing organizations YOU are not sure about. Yeah that sounds like a great idea, lets pay an auditor to audit all the books from all the organizations they were ever a part of. Your postings are perfect examples how blogging can be so damaging and inaccurate.
Meesus
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February 18, 2012
SLV Person -

The mountain dream and SLVGS are non profits who have their books audited every year. Know the facts first.

Meesus
anonymous
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February 20, 2012
Really? So don't you think that the President would have said something or the school would have known that it was a loan before they let this story out? Loan? I don't think so...
Funny Bushness
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January 18, 2012
Make excuses for someone who caused hundreds of thousands of dead, and wounded. Let them off free. what an example for kids to see. Defer our taxes to friends and family. Oh yeah. Run another of these leaches like jebro to set example. GOP all the way. Cops spent ten times this amount on 9 protesters, and are praised by nut jobs.
anonymous
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January 18, 2012
Go somewhere else to post your irrelevant rantings.
Stop blogs please
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January 17, 2012
Why dose the press banner and there out of town owners continue to allow these no named blogs to distroy people's life's. Would the Mathews family like to see there name in these blogs every day. There is a lot to talk about.

Be a responsible paper and stop this slander.

The Santa Cruz Sentinal is a responsible paper allowing free speech along as you included a verifiable name.

Do the right thing
Will Wolsey
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January 17, 2012
The Sentinel does not require a verifiable name. Anonymous posting on the Sentinel forum is quite common. Take a look.

What it does give you is the opportunity to post with your real name.

Oh wait. So does the Press Banner.

And, a quick question. If anonymous posting is such a terrible, irresponsible, slanderous concept.....why do you do it?
anonymous
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January 20, 2012
Well.... what is sad is that donated money was stolen. People ARE shocked for many reasons, they are NOT "pretending" to be shocked. A crime has been committed over a period of time, a bit more than making a mistake. Commenting about ethics and morals does not make a person "self righteous". Maybe people are hoping that in a given situation their morals and ethics would lead them to do the right thing.
Well...
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January 20, 2012
" If was accused of a crime like this I would..." That was my point exactly. We are all so self righteous....pretty sad.
Well What?
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January 19, 2012
This is not about making a mistake. This is about a lack of ethics, morals, judgment and personal responsibility. Posters keep throwing out the "So YOU'VE never made a mistake?" argument. That is a moot point. If I was accused of a crime like this, you can bet I would expect my name to be in the paper, and you can bet I would take responsibility for my actions. This was not someone making a mistake. This was a months-long deception that ended with the Panther Club being forced to go to the Board, and the Board being placed in the position of either sweeping it under the rug or reporting it to the Sheriff. Cast aspersions where you'd like. This was a no-brainer.
Well...
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January 19, 2012
Kids: If you are reading this, please don't be discouraged-there is hope for you yet. Never go around thinking that you will never make mistakes because you will. Just know that the important thing is learning from it and never doing it again. Always be loving and kind, helping each other. Be a generation of forgiveness and love.

Adults:Please don't pretend you are all shocked.If you are human, you'll make mistakes. Of course it was wrong-YES IT WAS. Can't change that. She does deserve the chance to redeem herself. Are you all so self righteous? I would hate to see you mess up someday and be subject to not only slander but disingenuous people who use to call themselves your friends. How selfish to think that your mean comments matter to anyone. All they do is add to an already negative society. it doesn't matter if you know Stepanie or not-BE KIND!
anonymous
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January 19, 2012
^ I agree, Volunteer MOM, that she has not had her day in court yet. That said, her denials mean nothing to me. What else would she say at this point? "Yes, I did it, but please don't tell the police I told you that?" Good grief.

In answer to your question: no, I am not perfect. However, I have never, EVER been accused of stealing $9000 from a middle school parent club...or $100, or $50, or $20, or one thin dime.
Volunteer MOM
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January 19, 2012
That was real nice "Felton Parent" Now tell me, why that was so funny? Are you perfect? I guess no one's ever had faith in you then? If she said she didn't do it...why not believe her? Remember we don't have all the facts yet. If by chance she did do it, well then, what a lesson to be learned. Let's have a little more faith in people. What a great example we are to our children-shameful.
Felton parent
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January 18, 2012
"Someone told me this week that they spoke to Stephanie and she said she didn't do it. I really don't think she would lie about something this serious."

Thanks for the comment, Volunteer MOM. That's the funniest thing I've read all week.

Don't stop belieevin
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January 18, 2012
You think a woman who embezzled $9000 is just going to admit it if someone asks her? Like her lawyer is going to say, if someone asks if you did it, just say yes.

Please. I also spoke to someone who said that Stephanie did it, and they know for a fact she did because they were part of the group that turned the information over to the district office.

Don't stop belieeeeeevin, hold on to that feeeeelin...
Volunteer MOM
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January 18, 2012
I agree that we should wait till all the facts are out before jumping the gun here. Someone told me this week that they spoke to Stephanie and she said she didn't do it. I really don't think she would lie about something this serious. I don't know her that well but this person who told me does. As far as the paper, I do think they could have waited till after the court date to stick her name in. And what difference does it make if someone puts their real name in this blog? Seriously people, don't waste your time with stupidity here....there are far more important issues to deal with.
doug is right
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January 17, 2012
When I first read it, I thought it was a parody but apparently it is not. (?)
Doug in Santa Cruz
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January 17, 2012
Why does she post anonymously? Wouldn't you if your spelling and grammar were that awful?
07Tai88
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April 02, 2012
I totally agree. Don't post something that you don't know all the facts about. Its still sad and disappointing someone would do this anyways.
Dear Adults
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January 12, 2012
Thanks for the recap, but the point I was trying to make is that everything you covered in your albeit well written response was pretty much covered at blog number 17.

Though I am not religious, a few other things not covered here come to mind:

Judge not lest ye be judged.

Let he without sin cast the first stone.

Friend of family
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January 13, 2012
Amen to that!!
anonymous
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January 16, 2012
Looking forward to the court date so all the facts can be presented. Does anyone know what date that will be?
Ben Lomond Resident
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January 16, 2012
To anonymous:

You are "looking forward to a court date"? You make me sick. You have way to much extra time in your life to be looking forward to something like this. Get a life.
BC Res
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January 16, 2012
To Ben Lomond Resident: Did it ever occur to you that like alot of us that Anonymous wants Stepanie to hurry and go to court so they can prove she's not guilty? That's why I want the court date to get here soon, is so that everyone who knows that Stephanie didn't do it.
want it settled
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January 16, 2012
Wanting this issue settled and, if the parties involved are guilty, the money repaid is not an evil goal. No need to demonize someone for their curiosity about a court date. The sooner this is over, the better. And by the way, if you're not curious, then don't keep checking these comments.
anonymous
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January 16, 2012
B.L. Resident..no need to be so rude. The intention was not to offend. The only way the true FACTS will come out is through a court proceeding.
Dear adults
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January 12, 2012
Hi.

The kids are reading all of this, yours and theirs. Welcome to the age of the smartphone. How about all you folks try and set an example here. They are watching. And learning.
Felton Fundraiser
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January 12, 2012
Yes, they are. And hopefully they are learning the following:

1. Stealing is a crime.

2. Even "nice" people can make bad decisions, and they will be held accountable for those decisions.

3. If you commit a crime against your community, you will be scorned by the community which you committed the crime against.

4. There is never a good reason to steal money, and if you do, your name will be put into the paper, everyone will know about it, your kids will be embarrased, your family will be a shamed and people will think less of you, maybe for a short time, maybe for a long time, maybe forever, but they will not forget very soon.

5.If you don't want to be gossiped about, don't steal. And don't steal from a school, or children, or anyplace where people know your name. Because your name will be ruined, and it won't be anyone else's fault.

Is that what they're learning, because that's what our daughter learned, and she looked us in the eye and promised she would NEVER STEAL ANYTHING EVER becuase she didn't want to be talked about like this. If this keeps one kid from stealing--especially if it's my kid--then I'm glad she learned something.
Friend of family
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January 13, 2012
To Felton Fundraiser,

Have you heard of the words compassion,understanding,empathy,apparently not.We have a justice system based on the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.You seem to have appointed yourself judge and jury, thank goodness this is just in your mind.I do believe in justice,I do believe in our community as a whole.The truth will reveal itself in time and while I wait for that moment to come I reject your principles of life utilizing scorn,shame,and embarrassment.
CommunityMom
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January 14, 2012
True, I'm sure kids have read this because mine have. It's best we be civil at the very least. I think that for one, Stephanie should admit she did it (if that's the case). Then she needs to do everything she can to make it up to the school. I am not making light of this BUT if she did make a mistake, just own up to it. People will respect that a lot more than denying it. Let's face it folks we all make mistakes-acknowledging and learning from them is important. No one can argue that!
anonymous
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January 12, 2012
My son has autism and this family was the first to step up and give him a chance on the baseball field and worked hard with him. In the mean time I had parents coming up to me and telling me that my son should quit and just give up because he was bringing the team down are most likely the same people who are posting all these horrible comments. So I know first hand the Valley is NOT as nice as it appears.

On another note: Shame on the Valley Press for releasing this story four days before school started. If they had been sitting on it for months then why choose to publish when they did. Other then to hurt the kids. Middle school is hell enough and the press does not need to add to the stress.
anonymous
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January 12, 2012
DONATED money is missing!!! Hard earned money that was earmarked for the enrichment of children's experiences at the middle school. Fundraised money, Missing! There ARE wonderful valley people, it is a nice place and people have a right to be angry over stolen funds. Yes, it will all be sorted out in court. Yes, at some point people will need to move on and heal. Yes, the Valley Press is in the business of reporting the NEWS regardless of who you are or what you may have done. The shame is on the person who committed the crime. Most parents try to instill honesty in their children, admit when you make a mistake and be held accountable. (this should still apply in adulthood!) Moving on for some will be in the form of seeing restitution, for others it may be a public apology from the person (who ever it may be) convicted of the crime. And yes, it is a CRIME to steal money.
wow....
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January 11, 2012
Innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

As much as some of us want to believe this person is guilty, that has not yet been proven.

Money is missing. Person handling it was arrested.

Those are the facts.
Enough already
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January 11, 2012
It seems "Glad..." has given good information on the what a citation means. Thank you- the clarification (if accurate) clears the air a bit. This is a heated topic and touches everyone in our community in some way. It is wrenching and emotional, but the constant bickering and insult- flinging is not helping anybody. Can we stop the madness, let the court do their job and we will see how it ends. In the meantime, everyone take a deep breath, and calm down. Let the shock and awe work itself out for each of us in a more personal and constructive way (volunteer at the the Panther Club or other school committee perhaps?). Anonymously blog bickering is just escalating an already tragic story.
Carson B
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January 11, 2012
Thank you "Enough..." for your sage and hopefully calming advice.I feel exactly as you do.While no one can or should be blamed for their natural and human response to this difficult situation,I too feel it's now time for us to step away and begin the healing we all need.Attacking each other through these anonymous posts is now,in my opinion,only further damaging our wonderful community we all love so dearly.
BL Mama
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January 11, 2012
As a member of this community, I would definitely want to know about this story. Thank you PB for reporting on this and please keep us updated. Shame, shame on this mom for setting a terrible example for her own children and for all of our own children as well.
Glad I'm not in SLV
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January 11, 2012
SLV Volunteer...a citation for a felony is basically an arrest and release. It's a summons to appear in court, and is a kinder alternative to booking a person into jail which is an option in an embezzlement case. It doesn't mean the crime was minimal or that the evidence supporting the crime was less. It also means this isn't a mere allegation with no foundation. The threshold to issue the summons is the same as if they would have booked her into county jail.

Your unfounded accusations about knowing who wrote the anonymous letters and eluding to "her" skeletons shows that you are only pretending to take the high road. Hypocrisy. Look it up.

I would hope that any community would set a standard that stealing is not okay. I don't care if you're living in your car (she wasn't), standing in the soup line (nope, not that either) or needing to pay for your kids' heart transplant (I'm guessing not...) there are other ways to fundraise than stealing from your neighbors and their children. If you do choose to steal from your neighbors, you should expect them to be pissed and have an opinion on the matter.

For those who are rallying for your friend, can't you support her and her family without vilifying the people who are having a very justified and natural reaction to being duped and victimized? These people have every right to be angry.

To those who excuse her behavior or minimize it by suggesting she was "desperate" or made a simple mistake...what an insult to those who struggle in this economy and manage not to become thieves. Being "good" includes doing the right thing when you think nobody is looking. Statistically, embezzlers are more often women, median age mid 40's, and unlike what we'd like to BELIEVE, the reason is usually not because they are in financial dire straights. It's more to support lavish lifestyles that they cannot otherwise afford. I don't know the family, but I do know how expensive extracurricular sports are so they couldn't be THAT desperate to be able to afford participating in them. If I were desperate, I'd have no choice but to pull my kids out of the sports...because stealing wouldn't be an option.

I'll bet my next three paychecks (which won't be anywhere near 9,000 bucks but I will have actually earned them) that she ultimately pleads guilty and takes probation rather than risk a jury trial and jail. Just a hunch...

anonymous
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January 11, 2012
AWESOME COMMENT!!!
Felton parent
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January 11, 2012
I agree; awesome comment!

If Stephanie was supposedly so "desperate," how did she afford the trip to the Ellen show?
slvparent
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January 11, 2012
I hope she has to pay back all the money. What a poor example for all who live in the valley.
BL DAD
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January 10, 2012
SLV Volunteer attempting to out the good people left behind to unravel this mess is NOT RIGHT! SHAME ON YOU for discouraging truth and honesty.
SLV Parent
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January 10, 2012
I didn't know there was a certain look for remorse. May you have all seen the look on your faces after you talk about Stephanie based on gossip. I have not yet seen that she has been arrested yet alone convicted of anything. Yet you all act like she has been tried and found guilty. Stop judging her on how she goes to the basketball games or what she wore. Would you not support your kids because a bunch of hateful people casted accusations on you?? Get a life already and leave them alone if not for her than for her children. Have any of you ever heard of "Innocent until proven guilty" ?? If you didn't see her take the money you as well as everyone else don't know despite what you may believe. Instead of sitting on the sidelines gossipping with eachother maybe some of you should step up and do some volunteering. It is always the ones who do nothing that like to complain the most. You know who you are...
ParentVolunteer
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January 10, 2012
This is a great opportunity to ask for more parent volunteers to support our Parent/Teacher clubs. We could use the help. I know personally the SLE Bobcat club has maybe 15 core parents (on the high side) running the fundraising events. Many of these volunteers hold full time jobs. So next time your unhappy with an event, step up and help out.

There are checks and balances in place. I believe sometimes they get swept under the rug due to lack of time due to lack of help due to lack of volunteers. Unfortunate but true.

We have an awesome tri-campus, let's continue to build on it!

unhappy spelling
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January 11, 2012
*you're* unhappy ... go back to focusing on the academics, folks.
Get the facts
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January 10, 2012
No one "put this" in the paper. Reporters have access to police/sheriff reports and a citation issued by a court is public information. This is not the school paper and they are covering the news. This is an explosive story for our community for sure but the newspaper is doing its job.
SLV Alumni
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January 10, 2012
Get the facts has this right on the money (no pun intended). Rumors about this have been running since July and the paper didn't print a word until the official citation was produced by law enforcement. You can't just blame the press or say "but they're nice people." The bottom line is, there is money missing, money from our community FOR our children, and enough evidence to point the finger at one individual. The facts will immurse with the coming months.
bc friend
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January 10, 2012
I agree with BL mom. The most vicious person of all is the one who called the banner and had them put this in the paper. You know who you are and you have been down right hateful to others. You have said things about others that isn't even true. If you wanted to call the banner I'n wondering why you didn't tell the truth as you know you didn't. I love this valley and the people in it. I have always thought that we help each other not knock each other down. Now I see not all of us are like that. Stephanie is a great loving and caring person. The whole family are wonderful people. To the person who put this in the paper why don't you call the paper and let them know about your skeletons in your closet as there are many.
BenLomond
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January 10, 2012
I was wondering how this got into the paper, did someone just call it in and it's not true!
slv parent
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January 10, 2012
How is she so great and nice if she has stolen form children and all those who have raised money for their support? One stupid comment was "some times good people do bad things." Isn't that a contradiction? We all make mistakes and need to forgive each other but this is a crime that is a felony. Wake up and smell the coffee! There should be shame for a crime like this.
SLV Volunteer
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January 10, 2012
Did JK's fingers cramp up after having to write 2 letters or was it you SLV MOM?? We all know it was her but don't worry we will still smile and say hi to her like we are the best of friends. Have to be just as fake as she is and that is alot of work. Let's be clear on this Stephanie was never arrested. Anyone can be investigated under false accusations. Let's hope that if you are ever investigated people don't drag your name through the mud for your children to see in the local paper.
Lynnette A
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January 10, 2012
OK, crossed the line.
Troubled in SLV
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January 10, 2012
I have been following these posts and am finally compelled to comment on this most recent addition. That someone would actually attempt to "out" an individual they suspected of assisting in ANY way to see that money raised by volunteers for our kids be returned is unconscionable. Now,apparently,doing the right thing is wrong and evidently to you, blatantly doing wrong is understandable.I for one,can't understand it.As has been stated many times in these posts,the PB acted on information provided through the Sheriff's Dept.Their initials would be SD.
Christina Wise
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January 10, 2012
Okay, SLV Volunteer. I posted as SLV mom, but I don't want to hide behind a pseudonym, especially if you're going to accuse me of "outing" Stephanie by writing letters to the Press Banner.

No, I didn't write any letters. I only joined the middle school campus this year, and knew nothing about any of this until the story hit the paper last week.

But if I had been involved with the Panther Club when the money started to go missing, I would have worked very hard to make sure that whoever took the money was held accountable, no matter who it was. You may remember a case of embezzlement that happened in our Valley back in 2005. The Executive Director of the Children's Center of San Lorenzo Valley was found to be stealing money and supplies from the Center, and after spending several weeks compiling evidence and following a paper trail of hell, another board member and I went to the Sheriff's Office, filed a report and watched the attending officer complete an arrest warrant for the Director. That was absolutely one of the worst things I've ever endured--knowing that someone who was loved and trusted by so many in our community could be stealing from us. The feeling of deception and betrayal was awful, and 60 families were impacted deeply by the loss--not just of the money, but of the trust, too. At that time, the entire CCSLV Board of Directors was vilified by some families and staff at the Center, and as hard as it was to have our decision scrutinized, we knew we were doing the right thing.

So, having been through an embezzlement before, would I bring any findings to light immediately? Absolutely. And you're right--Stephanie wasn't arrested, and I don’t know how that decision was made. When the above-referenced Director was arrested at her home—in front of her children—she was charged with embezzlement, grand theft and forgery. Perhaps a solo charge of embezzlement only requires a citation, not an arrest. If so, then Stephanie and her family were lucky in that sense, as an at-home arrest can be far more disturbing. What I can tell you, though, is that the Sheriff’s Office isn’t capricious in their actions. You have to present a lot of detailed evidence—a paper trail of forged checks or altered bank statements or whatever you have—in order to get the SO to move on the case. And they don’t do the investigation for you. The complainant has to be very, VERY clear in their findings before the SO will take a report. Based on that knowledge alone, I feel it’s pretty likely that they had enough evidence to cite Stephanie.

The hard part, of course, is that it’s Stephanie. It’s someone that is well-known in the Valley, someone who has volunteered for SLVGS and SLVLL, someone who has volunteered in the schools. As someone mentioned in an earlier post, that’s where the shock comes from. This would be much easier if it was someone that had questionable character. Betrayal is one thing, but betrayal by someone you trust—and someone who is so clearly loved by so many—is doubly hard to take.

So before you try to call out the people who wrote the letters, think about why you’re doing that. I can see that your friendship with Stephanie is a deep one, and I’m glad she has friends like you that will support her through this, but the people who wrote the letters should not be condemned for their actions. If anything, they are probably conflicted. And those posters who share their feelings of betrayal on this story shouldn’t be condemned either. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, even if it doesn’t align with yours.

anonymous
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January 10, 2012
Ms. Wise,

AMEN SISTER!
Felton parent
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January 10, 2012
I don't know Stephanie, but let's face it, good people sometimes do bad things. I agree with those who have posted that charges would not have been filed unless there was significant evidence against her. In addition, there was an incident with some missing science camp tuition checks (including mine) this past June; that incident immediately came to mind after reading this article, especially since she was removed from her position in July.

Regardless of the outcome of this particular case, I hope all SLV schools take steps to improve the financial security of the parent clubs' funds. I have worked as a volunteer on several occasions in the past 15 years, and always was astonished at how easy it would be for someone to pocket some cash if they were so inclined.
BL DAD
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January 10, 2012
Is coward your real name??
SLVMS Parent
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January 10, 2012
Good one.
Cowards
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January 10, 2012
This is why the press banner will never get my business.

When you allow post with out a a real name or real email address people will say anything this is not freedom of the press it is slander harassment and real papers like the sentinel have cleaned up there blogs

Cowards
Sierra Smith
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January 10, 2012
Not entirely true. Anonymous posts are still allowed and are frequently used on the Sentinel. They just have an option for people to post publicly IF THEY WANT via their real facebook page.

Many Sentinel posters use a fake facebook page or other options that allow them to post anonymously.

I think that a forum like this is a great way for people to express their opinions. If you disagree with something you can ignore it. Also, the PB is very good at removing comments that are blatant harassment, lies or otherwise unsavory.

And please note Mr "Cowards", you posted anonymously as well.


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