A 24-year-old Santa Rosa man was sentenced to six months in jail for embezzling thousands of dollars from his employer.

Jesse Hunter Wilson also will serve five years probation for stealing from the Mark West-area police supply company, Markell Inc.

Wilson's former boss, Guy Markell, said Wilson took $153,000 by selling company merchandise on eBay and funneling the proceeds to his own PayPal account.

Wilson worked as a computer operator at the 57-year-old company from October 2009 to November 2010, Markell said.

"What he did was start his own business out of our back room," Markell said. "We even paid the shipping."

Wilson was arrested in December 2010 after Markell's supplier discovered the eBay items - mostly high-end flashlights — being sold for less than wholesale prices.

An investigation took longer than expected because Wilson put bugs in the computer system to destroy many of the records, Markell said.

"The guy was a computer whiz," Markell said. "That's what we needed at the time. We just didn't know how whizzy he was."

He was initially charged with grand theft in excess of $65,000 and elder financial abuse for stealing from seniors, including Markell and his mother, who ran the company together.

He could have received five years in prison for his crimes. But under a plea bargain the grand theft charge was dismissed and Wilson pleaded guilty to the elder financial abuse with an enhancement for the amount stolen. At his sentencing Wednesday, he was also ordered to repay the Markells $153,072 in restitution, prosecutor Robin Hammond said.

Markell said the loss was hard on the company but it was able to stay open. It has annual sales of about $2 million to police departments nationwide, he said.

Markell said he expected Wilson to get a stiffer sentence considering the hardship he caused.

"It's like we worked a year for nothing," Markell said.

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