A 46-year-old Brentwood woman was sentenced to two years and eight months in prison on Wednesday for embezzling $300,000 from investors who thought they were funding a start-up restaurant in Los Banos, according to Merced County District Attorney's Office.
Robin Ruth Recla received the maximum penalty allowable under current state law for felony embezzlement by Superior Court Judge David W. Moranda. Recla was also found guilty of filing a false tax return for not reporting the embezzled money as income to the California Tax Franchise Board.
During sentencing, prosecutors made it clear Recla has a history of fraud.
Recla was first convicted of fraud to obtain aid in 1998 and then she was convicted of felony grand theft in Idaho. She was also convicted of grand theft in 2011 for stealing $35,000 from her employer, which was an insurance company.
All five investors who were victims of Recla in this case, and an architect who was defrauded for thousands of dollars, gave their statements to the court, "making clear the breadth, scope and recurrence of fraud perpetrated by Ms. Recla," according to the release by Merced County District Attorney's Office.
The prosecutors asked for the maximum sentence.
Judge Moranda agreed, noting "her crimes started small and worked their way up."
"I don't see remorse," Moranda added. "I don't see that she is sorry."
According to Merced County District Attorney's Office, Recla's crimes started in Merced County when she engaged the five investors and an attorney into forming an LLC with the intention of creating a restaurant in the Los Banos area in 2018.
The investors had contributed approximately $300,000 into the future bar and grill restaurant with Recla being placed in charge of the finances.
Over the course of nine months, Recla had taken most of the money invested for her own personal use. She wrote over $159,000 worth of checks to herself and withdrew another $24,900 from automated teller machines and made other purchases for personal items such as furniture and travel.
The investors were alerted of the embezzlement when the bank informed them that the business account was overdrawn.
An investigation by the Franchise Tax Board discovered that Recla filed a false tax return in relation to the embezzled money from investors.
The case was prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Travis M. Colby.
The investigation was a collaboration between various law enforcement agencies, which included intensive forensic accounting. The Franchise Tax Board, the Criminal Investigation Bureau, Los Banos Police Commander Justin Meldon and investigator Moses Nelson with the Merced County District Attorney's Office all aided in the investigation.