Friday, June 24 , 2016, 9:43 pm | Fair 62º

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Local News

Santa Barbara Police Administrator Accused of Embezzling $100,000 in Parking Revenue

Seven-month investigation leads to the arrest of Karen Flores, who has worked for the department's business office for 22 years

A longtime administrator for the Santa Barbara Police Department was arrested Friday morning and allegedly admitted to embezzling $100,000 in parking citation revenues.

Karen Flores
Karen Flores

Karen Flores was a nonsworn supervisor in the Police Department’s business office, where she had worked for 22 years.

Sgt. Lorenzo Duarte said Friday that at the time of Flores’ arrest, she reportedly admitted diverting the revenue to her personal account.

There is no indication that Flores had any accomplices, and she was arrested and booked into the Santa Barbara County Jail by investigators from the District Attorney’s Office. She is being held on $250,000 bail, and has been placed on unpaid administrative leave.

Deputy Chief Frank Mannix, who briefed the media at a Friday afternoon news conference, said that about seven months ago, members of the city’s Finance Department noticed a discrepancy and contacted police.

“They noticed that the revenue we were posting in the parking citation system did not match what was being reported in the general ledger,” he said.

Investigators were able to rule out computer and accounting errors, Mannix said, and with embezzlement the remaining option, police contacted the District Attorney’s Office. A team of investigators from the Police Department, the DA’s Office and the City Administrator’s Office began looking into the case and “ultimately, we were able to seize evidence that indicated the guilt of Mrs. Flores,” Mannix said.

“The very person we would rely upon the most to assist us in this investigation turned out to be our suspect,” he said, adding that the collection of parking citation revenues is “actually very complicated.” Fines double when delinquent and can be paid a number of different ways, with some money staying with the city and some going to the state.

“No one knew the system better than Mrs. Flores,” said Mannix, who added that she had been aware of the investigation because she was a member of the initial group informed of the discrepancies. Because of that, he said, Flores had changed her methodologies as accountability systems were checked and double-checked, making it difficult it to apprehend her. Eventually she left a trail of physical evidence, Mannix said.

The exact loss has yet to be determined, and the city will conduct a financial analysis to see how much was taken.

Mannix praised the work of chief investigator Dave Saunders from the District Attorney’s Office and City Finance Director Bob Samario.

“Without their help and assistance, a successful investigation would not have been possible,” he said.

When asked about first discovering the actions of the longtime administrator, “we were all shocked,” he told reporters, but added that the investigation was completed because of the integrity of the officers involved. The department had already implemented some procedural changes during the investigation and is continuing to evaluate.

“Ultimately, however, it is the integrity of the person that is the most important variable,” he said. “I’d like to assure the public that the department is doing the right thing, and we feel very strong about this case.”

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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