Proceedings against former UC Berkeley employee who pleaded guilty to embezzlement continue

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Court proceedings against former UC Berkeley employee Sonia Waters, who pleaded guilty July 26 to fraudulent embezzlement of UC funds entrusted to her, will continue at an upcoming restitution hearing.

Waters, who was working as an administrator for the campus School of Public Health at the time, was sentenced to five years of formal probation and 20 days in jail, and was put under additional constraints, such as drug testing, restitution fees and forbiddance from leaving the state.

Additionally, Waters will not be allowed on any UC campus. A transcript of an Aug. 26 sentencing decision stated it necessary to go “above and beyond” UC Berkeley, given the “nature of the offense.”

UCPD began investigation into Waters’ case in March 2014 and has since ceased its investigation, according to UCPD spokesperson Sabrina Reich. The campus’s Audit and Advisory Services department, however, is still doing some investigation into Waters’ case, according to Reich.

The exact amount Waters was convicted of embezzling from the campus and University of California has not been made available to the public. Wanda Lynn Riley, the campus’s chief audit executive, could not be reached for comment.

Waters’ attorney Mark Vermeulen met with campus staff in August 2014 to discuss restitution and was promised an audit report of the amount missing. In a letter dated from Aug. 20 of this year, he described how he and two deputy district attorneys associated with the case at the time — Mark Bennett and Nick Homer — had not received the audit, despite several requests.

In Waters’ August sentencing, her “good faith” efforts — including being present for her first 13 court appearances, placing $1,000 in her lawyer’s client trust account as a good faith payment to be paid back to the campus and testimonies from those near to her — were noted by the presiding judge.

Waters served 10 days in jail after her April 2014 arrest. A defendant can receive one day credit for each day served, according to Adam Byer, administrator of planning, research and outreach for the Alameda County Superior Court. The court gave Waters 20 day credits — 10 for days served and 10 days for good behavior.

In a March 2014 affidavit, UCPD detective Harry Bennigson alleged that Waters took at least $85,000 of campus and UC funds. Using fake invoices and forging the former dean’s signature, Waters used some of the embezzled funds to pay for two of her children’s private school tuition, according to the affidavit.

The campus’s human resources policy requires criminal background checks for positions that have access to sensitive information, such as the money-handling position Waters held. When she was reclassified into a sensitive position, no check was performed.

If Waters violates the terms and conditions of her probation, she could be subject to serve a maximum of three years in local custody.

The court will determine how much money Waters must return to the campus during a restitution hearing scheduled for Nov. 13.

Contact Pamela Larson at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @PamReporting.