Brawley man who stole over $250,000 from local farm sentenced to 24 months in prison

SAN DIEGO, Calif. - Brawley resident and former bookkeeper Claude Theodore Riley was sentenced in federal court today to 24 months in prison for embezzling from his former employer and failing to pay taxes on the stolen funds.


56-year-old Riley was ordered to pay $273,000 in restitution to the employer and $75,000 to the Internal Revenue Service.


Riley pleaded guilty in September to wire fraud and making a false tax return in a five-year scheme in which he stole stealing from his employer, an Imperial Valley farm. Riley stole around $272,984.00 from his employer, filed fraudulent tax returns, and failed to file required employment tax returns resulting in a $1.5-million-dollar tax lien against the farm.  


Riley was the farm’s bookkeeper from 2010 to 2015 and oversaw the farm’s entire annual budget.


As the bookkeeper, Riley had access to the farm’s bank accounts, paychecks, and bookkeeping records. Riley forged certain IRS documents to hide his embezzlement from the employer. For his scheme, Riley made 148 transactions out of the employer’s bank account, fictitiously entered various vendors to be paid into the bookkeeping records, and generated checks made payable to himself.


“His employer trusted Riley to safeguard the fruits of their labor, but he diverted hundreds of thousands of those hard-earned dollars into his own pocket,” said U.S. Attorney Adam Braverman. “Today, the defendant pays the price for his deception.”


“Mr. Riley took advantage of the trust of his employer for his own benefit,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Eric S. Birnbaum. “Today, justice is served for this Imperial Valley farm family.  This case is an excellent example to illustrate how the FBI works to uncover fraud schemes that have a significant impact on the Valley's hard-working farming industry.”

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