Clovis News

$100,000 fine issued in embezzlement case

A Clovis man on Friday was fined $100,000 and sentenced to six months in a halfway house for embezzling more than $800,000 from a well-known local food processor.

Jerry Burnes, 65, already had paid full restitution and agreed to pay more than $450,000 in back taxes to the state of California and the Internal Revenue Service.

"The defendant's crime was motivated by greed, and not economic necessity," Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark McKeon wrote in a sentencing memorandum.

In March, Burnes pleaded guilty to federal charges of mail fraud and making and subscribing a false tax return.

He faced the possibility of 13 years and $500,000 fine, but his attorney, Roger Nuttall, argued that his client should get no prison time.

"There exists no particularly good reason to subject a man such as Jerry Burnes to incarceration under the circumstances of this case," Nuttall wrote in a sentencing memorandum.

According to court documents, Burnes was Lyons Magnus' chief financial officer until he was terminated in March 2006.

He worked at the beverage and frozen and canned fruit company for more than 30 years.

Between 1998 and 2006, Burnes embezzled $842,839 from the company to pay his personal credit card bills. He also fraudulently failed to declare and include the income from the embezzled funds on his income tax returns for the years 2001-05.

Court documents say Burnes used blank company checks to pay four different credit cards.

The purchases -- which included meals, lodging and cash advances -- were personal and not for business.

In February 2006, the company's controller discovered the fraud scheme.

To cover his restitution, Burnes paid more than $740,000 in cash to Lyons Magnus and handed over title to a company he owned -- San Joaquin Brokerage -- which was valued at $100,000.

As part of the sentence handed down by U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence O'Neill, Burnes will be on probation for four years and complete 3,000 hours of community service over the next three years.