Employee embezzled $685,000 from Modesto business through Amazon, Costco, other orders

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A 52-year-old Manteca woman has been convicted of embezzling more than $685,000, including thousands of orders from Amazon, Costco, Target and Walmart, from a Modesto company where she worked.

The office of Stanislaus County District Attorney Birgit Fladager announced the June 15 conviction of Manteca resident Julia Ann Smith. Smith pleaded either no contest or guilty to four felony charges and was sentenced to serve three years and eight months in state prison, according to a news release.

Smith worked as a bookkeeper for Modesto Sand & Gravel and was charged with embezzling $685,413.08 from her company and its president, Matthew Kellstrom, by altering digital financial files. According to the DA’s Office, her embezzlement was discovered by a technician who had been called to fix a computer at the business.

The company hired a second bookkeeper to audit its finances, and that person confirmed the discrepancies. The business owner confronted Smith, according to the DA’s Office; she had no explanation.

The Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department handled the investigation. Through search warrants, sheriff’s Investigator Juan Rodriguez found several online accounts opened by Smith without company approval.

That includes an Amazon business account that had ordered 7,813 items, which were sent to Smith’s home in Manteca between December 2017 and December 2020. The DA’s Office said hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of purchases also were made through accounts for Costco, Target and Walmart.

According to court documents, her scheme included fraudulently opening credit cards through Bank of America and Capital One. The embezzlement lasted from Sept. 1, 2017, to Dec. 21, 2020; the criminal complaint was filed in November 2021.

During the course of the investigation, Smith allegedly fled from California to Texas to escape prosecution. She was arrested in Texas and extradited back to Stanislaus County. She faced felony charges of theft by embezzlement with an enhancement for the taking of more than $500,000, identity theft, misuse of personal identifying information and forgery. Her case was prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Harshan Samra.

At her June 15 court date before Judge Kellee C. Westbrook, Smith pleaded no contest to theft by embezzlement and guilty to various counts of misuse of personal identifying information.