SANTA ANA, California – An Orange County woman who embezzled more than $3 million from two companies while she worked as their financial controller, cheated on her taxes, and fraudulently obtained a COVID-relief business loan was sentenced today to 63 months in federal prison.
Rosalba Meza, 48, a.k.a. “Rosalba Sceville,” of Dana Point, was sentenced by United States District Judge Cormac J. Carney, who also ordered her to pay $4,192,470 in restitution.
Meza pleaded guilty in December 2022 to one count of wire fraud and one count of subscribing to a false tax return.
From May 2017 through the end of 2019, Meza made unauthorized transfers – totaling approximately $3,071,880 – to her own bank accounts from accounts belonging to Trilogy Plumbing Inc. and a related back-office support company called Matrix Management LLC, both based in Anaheim.
Meza held various positions at these companies since 2003 and was entrusted with access to and control of the companies’ financial and banking information. In her role, Meza – whose annual salary was approximately $65,000 – oversaw and handled the companies’ daily financial activities, including banking, bookkeeping and preparation of financial statements. She also had the authority to access the companies’ bank accounts for the purpose of making authorized electronic payments on the companies’ behalf.
Meza used her knowledge of the companies’ accounting software to intentionally falsify their accounting records. She misrepresented the amounts in the companies’ various accounts to conceal the unauthorized transfers and falsely show the companies’ accounts were balanced. For example, Meza falsely recorded some unauthorized transfers as business expenses, when in fact these amounts were payments to herself.
In February 2019, Meza told executives their companies did not have funds to meet payroll obligations and failed to inform the executives that she had been embezzling from the companies. Several months later, while the companies were the subject of an IRS enforcement action because of unpaid payroll taxes, Meza falsely told the executives that she did not pay the quarterly payroll taxes because she instead had used those funds to pay employees.
Once Meza transferred the funds to her accounts, she used the stolen money on personal expenses, withdrew a large amount in cash, wired a significant amount to a family member-owned bank account in Mexico and made other transfers of the illicitly obtained funds to family and friends.
The scheme lasted until January 2020, when Trilogy and Matrix fired Meza.
“Particularly troubling is that in executing her embezzlement scheme, [Meza] took advantage of the responsibility she was entrusted with at the expense of her employers,” prosecutors argued in a sentencing memorandum. “[Meza’s] fraudulent schemes ran the course of several years and caused significant harm. This is not the case of defendant making one bad decision on one particular day, this is a pattern of bad decisions that spanned the course of several years.”
In addition to her embezzlement, for the tax years 2017, 2018 and 2019, Meza knowingly and willfully signed – under penalty of perjury – false personal federal income tax returns that vastly understated her annual income. For example, on her 2018 federal tax return Meza falsely reported that her income was $65,728, which did not include the $1,363,654 she obtained that year from stealing from her employers.
In total, Meza willfully failed to report $3,132,617 in income to the IRS, resulting in a total tax loss of $1,100,022 to the United States.
In her plea agreement, Meza admitted to submitting a false and fraudulent Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan application for $20,569 for Rosalba Meza, her eponymous business entity. In support of that loan application, Meza falsely listed monthly payroll and tax information. A bank approved the false application and disbursed her requested loan proceeds to the bank account she listed on the PPP paperwork, causing an actual loss of $20,569.
The FBI and IRS Criminal Investigation investigated this matter.
Special Assistant United States Attorney Ryan G. Adams of the Santa Ana Branch Office prosecuted this case.
Anyone with information about allegations of fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at (866) 720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.