Santa Clarita resident Neilla Cenci, 74, pleaded no contest Wednesday to five state felony charges for grand theft, computer fraud, forgery and tax evasion, according to court officials.
Cenci was sentenced in Los Angeles Superior Court for embezzling more than $1 million from her former employer, Ball Construction Management. Cenci will serve a one-year sentence in county jail, 10 years of probation and pay more than $900,000 in restitution, according to a prepared statement from the company.
According to court documents, Cenci embezzled from the company over a period of 12 years and she was discovered during a routine IRS audit in 2018. Cenci would pay off “extravagant” personal credit card bills using forged Ball CM corporate checks.
She also used her credit cards to pay for expensive purchases such as vacations, jewelry, clothing and medical procedures, according to court documents. Cenci forged more than 1,000 checks in small amounts and stole more than $1.6 million.
According to Chris Ball, owner of Ball Construction Management, after her initial arrest in September 2018, the original charges were dropped while the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office built a larger case after it was provided with further evidence of extensive criminal activity.
Cenci left California and in August 2021 she was arrested and extradited to Los Angeles.
“For me, it’s been a long four years filled with rage and obsession over what this woman did to us,” wrote Kristine Ball, wife of Chris and owner of the company, in a prepared statement. “We wanted instant justice, but we had to wait for that.”
“It was a huge relief to read my impact statement loud and clear for her to hear.”
In addition, Cenci may face additional charges for bankruptcy fraud.