Executive sentenced 44 months in theft of Sacramento County funds

Published: Saturday, Apr. 13, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Sunday, Apr. 14, 2013 - 9:38 am

The comptroller behind the theft of $18 million in Sacramento County funds was sentenced to 44 months in prison in U.S. District Court on Friday.

Kerry Seaman and another executive at New Jersey-based Ingentra earlier pleaded guilty to stealing payroll taxes from the county and two companies and providing false information to the Internal Revenue Service.

Sacramento County outsourced payroll processing for its special-district employees to Ingentra from 2005 to 2010. Rather than forward all tax payments to the IRS, the company kept $18 million for itself and manipulated documents to understate how much the county owed.

Despite pleading guilty in late 2010, Seaman avoided sentencing for two years because she and her attorney received at least 10 continuances.

Her attorney, Anthony Collelouri, said she was eligible for home detention because of her cooperation with federal investigators and because she personally didn't reap large benefits from the theft.

In Sacramento's federal courthouse, U.S. District Court Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr. said that he agreed with some of Seaman's arguments but had to send a message to others who might consider multimillion-dollar fraudulent schemes.

Her cooperation with authorities "can't erase the entirety of Mrs. Seaman's conduct in this case, in which she played a major role," Burrell said.

In a statement given to Burrell, Seaman said she accepts responsibility for her crime, but her actions were out of character. She said she couldn't believe what she saw when she read media coverage about the case.

" 'Who is this person?' I asked about myself," Seaman said. "How could I financially damage a whole county?"

Answering her own questions, Seaman said she was in a state of denial, telling herself that she acted on behalf of her boss, Albert Cipoletti, and her co-workers, who remained employed because of her theft.

The sentencing wraps up the case as the other executive, Cipoletti, was sentenced in 2011 by Burrell to 78 months in prison.

Sacramento County was liable for the $18 million in federal taxes that Ingentra did not transfer. But the IRS last year agreed to waive all but $500,000 of the money the county owed.

Seaman's sentence matches the request by Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Tice-Raskin, who said she provided invaluable assistance to the government in its investigation of the fraud. Investigators did not know the scope of the case or its participants until she provided help, he said.

The government's recommendation was lower than federal guidelines for such a crime committed by a defendant with a similar background. That's in part because of Seaman's cooperation and the plea deal she made with the government, Tice-Raskin said. He now says that Seaman was less culpable than Cipoletti, offering a different stance than he did in earlier written arguments to the court.

"Cipoletti and Seaman are on nearly equal footing with respect to culpability," Tice-Raskin wrote earlier. "Seaman was the comptroller and, of significance, executed almost all of the fraud."

Call The Bee's Brad Branan, (916) 321-1065. Follow him on Twitter @bradb_at_sacbee.

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