A Sacramento woman was sentenced to four years in jail and ordered to pay nearly $780,000 in restitution on Thursday after she pleaded guilty to identity theft and stealing money from a Concord company, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Consuelo “Connie” Puente, 44, pleaded guilty on Dec. 4 to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. According to court documents, she was employed by a Concord company from May 2008 to June 2013.
During that time, she was the sole employee responsible for handling payroll, prosecutors said. Puente admitted to falsifying personnel records and classifying former employees as current employees so they would continue to be paid.
She then deposited that money into her own bank account, prosecutors said. She furthered her scheme by preparing fake W-2 forms for each of the former employees and then omitted the money she was depositing to herself in her own tax returns, prosecutors said.
Puente transferred $543,545 into her own bank account, causing the company to pay an additional $84,362 in false IRS withholdings for a total of $627,908, according to prosecutors.
She was indicted on March 18 last year and charged with three counts of wire fraud and three counts of aggravated identity theft, but pleaded guilty to just one count of each charge.
In a sentencing memorandum, Federal Public Defender Steven Kalar said Puente was undergoing significant financial hardship at the time and struggling with alcoholism.
He cited the murder of Kelvin Bibbs, the father of Puente’s second child, in a home invasion robbery as one of several traumatic events in her life.
Puente remained close to Bibbs’s family and helped raise his daughter from a previous relationship, Kalar said. The daughter, who is now 29 years old and works as a probation officer, “is devoted to Ms. Puente, who supported her through many difficult years,” Kalar said.
Kalar said Puente had a history of stable employment since she was 18 years old and continued to support her two daughters and stepdaughter even after she lost her partner. She also took on the care of her mother, who Kalar said is illiterate and has a variety of medical problems.
When Puente pleaded guilty, she expressed profound remorse for her actions, Kalar said.
“(I feel) horrible, shamed by my actions and selfishness,” Puente said, according to court documents. “I know that I have failed all my family, work colleagues especially. I feel I have let a lot of people who believed in me down.”
Kalar said Puente is committed to paying restitution for the money she stole.
Prosecutors said Puente is in custody and will begin serving the sentence immediately.
The prison term will be followed by a three-year period of supervised release and she will have to repay $151,987 to the government and $627,908 to the Concord company and anther entity, which was not named in court documents.
Abraham Simmons, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office said he could not disclose the name of the Concord company or disclose the third entity at this time.