Friday, January 19 , 2018, 11:43 pm | Fair 52º


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.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click here to get started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >