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Lodi woman admits to embezzling nearly $500,000

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Posted: Saturday, June 5, 2010 12:00 am

A Lodi woman pleaded guilty Friday to embezzling nearly $500,000 from her employers.

Brenda Kaye Kemper, now 58, could face prison time when she is sentenced in September for the fraud at Big Valley Aviation in Stockton, said San Joaquin County Deputy District Attorney Stephen Taylor.

Kemper was arrested in January 2009 after a lengthy investigation by the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Office. She was accused of using company credit cards to buy large amounts of jewelry from Home Shopping Network, as well as paying restaurant tabs, buying clothing and going to a Lodi tanning salon.

The employee-owned business, which services helicopters and small planes, has since changed accounting procedures to prevent such a thing from happening again. The monetary loss was great enough that employees have taken furloughs and wage reductions to keep the business open, said Paul McKenzie, board president and director of maintenance.

Kemper had worked for nearly 20 years at the business and handled all the financial matters. She began wracking up bills on company credit cards, which went unknown by employees for a number of years.

McKenzie had tried to look into the company's increasing financial troubles, but said that instead Kemper contacted shareholders and got him voted off the board.

The fraud was discovered in June 2008 when Kemper took a leave to get gastric bypass surgery and someone else took over bookkeeping duties. Sheriff's investigators were contacted, and they began sifting through records.

Kemper was arrested in January 2009 and indicted by a criminal grand jury. Judge Franklin Stephenson appointed a certified public accountant to review the volumes of records, and the embezzlement total was placed at $494,000, Taylor said.

The case was set to go to trial this summer, but on Friday Kemper pleaded guilty to felony charges of grand theft and falsification of corporate books, with an enhancement that the loss was greater than $250,000.

Kemper's sentence will be determined by Stephenson in September.

In the meantime, an auction house will evaluate countless pieces of jewelry seized from her Audobon Drive home to determine their value, which will go toward restitution, Taylor said.

Kemper's court-appointed attorney, John Panerio, did not return a message left late Friday afternoon.

Big Valley Aviation, which has gone from 21 employees to 11, is trying to recover from the setback, though the economy has also caused their business to lessen. McKenzie urged other small businesses to make sure multiple people handle accounting matters.

"To totally safeguard against this you have to have total transparency," he said. "Be very vigilant and question everything from the financial aspect of the business."

Contact reporter Layla Bohm at layla@lodinews.com.

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  • posted at 12:35 pm on Thu, Jun 10, 2010.


    Tom,Actually, in my BIL's case, the employee is his ex-girlfriend's daughter. So, there's lots of emotional manipulation going on. He really can't afford her, either, and he'll probably have to lay off others just to keep her. That is, if he hasn't done that already.Oh, well, it's his business, and he has the right to pay a chimpanzee 100k a year if he wants to. I just don't think about it, and I tune out when he starts complaining.

  • posted at 2:05 am on Thu, Jun 10, 2010.


    Mrs. S - you should not be suprised. Most small business owners are generally good at the trade or service they provide, but not at running a business. They hire people who they can afford rather than the people they need to help them run the business side, usually because they are so small when they start they can't afford the accountant they really need. And since they don't understand what "running the business side" means, they can't really determine if that work is being done correctly. It makes them a victim in waiting.At a minimum, an outsider should come in and do a cursory review every year. And employees on the financial side should be required to take vacation and have their duties covered by someone else (even a temp) during the vacation. That will prevent a good portion of this type of activity.

  • posted at 3:21 am on Wed, Jun 9, 2010.


    We had an employee embezzle from our business as well. She got away with using the owners CC to run up approx $3000 in charges, then tried to say she 'didn't know how that happened'. And stole cash by reversing sales receipts in our accounting software, amounting to $2000! Worthless piece of trash!! She now has a police report on file at L.P.D. However, the owner didn't press charges, and that was incredibly stupid on his part. All I can say is that employers need to do background checks. Inquire with your local PD or police department from where they resided.

  • posted at 5:03 am on Sun, Jun 6, 2010.


    jb,My BIL has an employee that not only constantly demands raises, but she has some of his financial records on a laptop and won't give him the password!She actually has him afraid she'll leave and work for the competition (yeah, like they'd let her pull that stuff with them, and he couldn't replace her with a 12% unemployment rate!). He's a sucker anyway, though. It amazes me when people like this run businesses, and even more, when they're shocked that someone's ripping them off!

  • posted at 9:53 am on Sat, Jun 5, 2010.


    I agree...we should have an audit conducted on LUSD books. Caaaan't wait to hear Sven31 get on here and balk at that! After all you were in charge of the books for some years right sevens? GOOD OLD BOYS OF LODI!! What are we really spending money on?

  • posted at 9:51 am on Sat, Jun 5, 2010.


    Looks like all of the conspiracy theorists were up early this morning, lol!

  • posted at 3:52 am on Sat, Jun 5, 2010.


    EDUMACATION...Don't stop with LUSD, audit all of City government entities. I am sure you would be horrified to find who spent money and what they spent it on. Should be a matter of public record as it is OUR money they are spending. Good luck finding informatin they don't want the citizens to know. I have tried.

  • posted at 1:54 am on Sat, Jun 5, 2010.


    This is the reason why an outside disinterested party needs to audit books. Lets start with the Lodi USD?



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