A 37-year-old Santa Rosa bookkeeper convicted of embezzling from her employers has been sentenced to five years and four months in state prison, Sonoma County District Attorney officials said Thursday.
Charity Howder must pay restitution of more than $300,000 to Project Management Practice, Inc. of Petaluma, the Rohnert Park Law Office of Charlotte Creaghan and Andreoli's Towing in Cotati, District Attorney Jill Ravitch said.
Howder embezzled funds from the first two companies from 2005 to 2011, when Howder's unauthorized expenditures were discovered, officials said. Petaluma police arrested Howder Sept. 6, 2012, and during the investigation she came under suspicion for her activities during her work for the towing company. Police found she stole from Andreoli Towing from 2009 until 2011, Ravitch said.
On April 29, Howder entered no contest pleas to felony grand theft, forgery and financial elder abuse, charges that include sentencing enhancements based on the amount of the loss, Ravitch said.
During a June 17 sentencing hearing, representatives from the law office and the towing company spoke about the effects of Holder's actions on the businesses and their lives. A former employee who lost his job in part because of Howder's embezzlement also spoke, Ravitch said.
"This defendant earned her prison sentence by stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from those who placed her in positions of trust in their companies, with the tragic result that others were unable to keep their jobs," Ravitch said in a statement.
Howder remained at the Sonoma County Jail Thursday and is scheduled for an additional restitution hearing July 31.
Shelters for Pawnee fire evacuees
Lower Lake High School, 9430 Lake St., Lower Lake, is the official shelter established for people evacuating from the Pawnee fire. It is equipped to handle animals.
The Clearlake Oaks Moose Lodge, 15900 E. Highway 20, Clearlake Oaks, is not authorized by the Office of Emergency Services but is also sheltering fire evacuees, mostly people in campers and RVs who want their animals with them.
There is an authorized Lake County animal services station in an open field at Highway 53 and Anderson Ridge Road in Lower Lake.