San Mateo County mosquito district accuses pair of bleeding coffers

AP file photoThe San Mateo County Mosquito and Vector Control District has accused two former employees of embezzling funds.

Two former employees of the San Mateo County Mosquito and Vector Control District have been accused of stealing more than $635,000, according to officials.

The district did not name either ex-employee, but prosecutors said one is currently in prison for two prior embezzlement convictions.

Joanne Seeney is being investigated in connection with the most recent fraud, according to San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe, and she is currently serving a two-year, eight-month prison sentence for previously embezzling more than $550,000 from two San Mateo County companies.

An investigation into the mosquito district’s finances began last fiscal year, which ran from July 2010 through June 2011, after a trustee questioned the amount of money spent on pesticides.

After a response from staff was “unsatisfactory,” an independent auditor took over. The auditing firm discovered discrepancies. A complaint was filed with the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office, which also launched an investigation.

“A forensic audit of district financial data has revealed a complex and sophisticated method of misuse and theft of district funds and property believed to total more than $635,000,” district General Manager Robert Gay said in a statement Monday.

One of the former employees was terminated, according to Gay, and the other resigned. Gay said if any other employees had knowledge of the wrongdoing and failed to report it, they would face discipline.

Seeney’s first embezzlement case occurred between 2002 and 2007, when she took more than $500,000 from an unnamed company, according to prosecutors. The second incident came to light while the first was being investigated, Wagstaffe said, and Seeney was convicted of taking $49,000 in that case.

Wagstaffe said a decision to file charges related to the latest allegations is expected before the end of the year. Seeney could face at least three more years in prison if convicted, Wagstaffe said.

Seeney was hired by the mosquito district in February 2009 as the administrative accounting assistant under the name Jo Ann Dearman.

Gay said since the alleged embezzlement came to light, the district has implemented “fiscal safeguards” — which include policies and procedures to increase transparency and accountability for financial transactions. The district is trying to recover the lost funds.

akoskey@sfexaminer.com

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