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Woman Arrested On Suspicion of Embezzlement

A 43-year-old woman turned herself into the Sheriff’s Department on Thursday after learning there was a warrant out for her arrest in connection with the embezzlement of $559,000 from a Santa Barbara company, authorities said.

Santa Barbara — A 43-year-old woman turned herself into the Sheriff’s Department Thursday after learning there was a warrant out for her arrest in connection with the embezzlement of $559,000 from a Santa Barbara company, authorities said Friday.


Sheriff deputies say Charlene Cortez Avila, a past employee of Card Payment Solutions, stole money from the company between October of 2004 and June of 2007.

In July, the company – which enables businesses to accept credit cards – discovered a $440,000 discrepancy in merchant losses, authorities said.

An internal investigation at the company allegedly connected several suspicious transactions to Cortez-Avila, who had been laid off the month before. At that point, the company called the Sheriff’s Department.

Authorities said she embezzled the money by altering the course of a transaction between Card Payment Solutions and its banking institution, and then sending these funds into her personal accounts.

“Cortez-Avila became so proficient in hiding these transactions, she began to embezzle more and more money where the dollar amounts and number of transfers increased over the months, and in some cases were as much as $52,000 a month,” said Sgt. Alex Tipolt, the department’s public information officer, in a statement Friday.

Cortez-Avila was booked into the Santa Barbara County Jail on suspicion of embezzlement-related charges and held in lieu of $557,000 bail, Tipolt said.



Tree Removal, Utility Relocation To Precede Major Construction on 101

Santa Barbara — Crews soon will begin removing utilities and several trees to prepare for the summer onset of a major construction project on Highway 101 from Milpas Street to Hot Spings Road.

This month, in the Coast Village Road area, Verizon, Southern California Edison and Cox Communications will resume installing new underground facilities. The City of Santa Barbara will be relocating water and wastewater lines near Cacique, Indio Muerto, and Punta Gorda Streets. Edison high-voltage transmission lines will remain above ground for safety and maintenance.

Before Feb. 15, Caltrans maintenance crews will remove seven trees in the project corridor to avoid the possibility of harm to nesting birds. The trees will be removed near Sycamore Creek by Dwight Murphy Field and near the Milpas northbound off-ramp.

Meanwhile, the improvements between Milpas Street and Hot Springs Road. include planting nearly 500 trees as well as additional landscaping throughout the project area.

The $57 million project includes widening the freeway; reconstructing two major interchanges; building or improving six bridges; and improving local streets and pedestrian pathways. It is slated to take four years.

During construction, Highway 101 will have two lanes open in each direction.

The majority of construction will occur behind concrete barriers during daytime work hours; some nighttime lane closures will occur.

This is a joint project by the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments, Caltrans and the City of Santa Barbara.

Additional public information is available by calling 888-SB-ROADS.



One Arrested in Ongoing Investigation Of Recent Car Burglary Rash

Goleta—After arresting one woman in connection to a recent string of car burglaries, Sheriff detectives are still investigating the case, authorities said Friday.


The burglaries occurred near parks and athletic centers during the months of November and December in Goleta.

Thus far, the investigation has led to the mid-December arrest of Jennifer Coltrin, who authorities say was living in a mobile home on the 4100 block of State Street.

At the time of her arrest, Coltrin was found to be in possession of numerous stolen checks, wallets, purses, identification cards, credit cards, bank documents, said Sgt. Alex Tipolt, spokesman for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department.

Tipolt said the items appear to have come from “window smash” vehicle burglaries from Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

“Coltrin is believed to have been using the financial information and the identities of these victims to make fraudulent purchases at several retailers in the Santa Barbara Area,” he said in the release.

At the time of her arrest, Coltrin had an outstanding warrant on an unrelated charge, he said.

Anyone with more information is asked to call Sheriff detectives at (805) 681-4150.


CASA Magazine Wins Downtown Organization’s Citizen Of The Year Award

Santa Barbara—The Downtown Organization has presented its 2007 Downtown Citizen of the Year Award to CASA Magazine.

The magazine, which received the award at the Downtown Organization’s annual luncheon on Thursday, was recognized for four things:

·  its promotion of downtown Santa Barbara as a center for art, culture, entertainment and commerce
·  commitment to enhancing the beauty of Santa Barbara through its involvement with Santa Barbara Beautiful
·    dedication to championing the non-profit community through its reporting on humanitarian projects
·  leadership and commitment to supporting the cultural arts in general and the First Thursday program in particular

The organization also presented its Harriet Miller Youth Leadership Award to Christina Gonzalez, a senior at Bishop Diego High School. Along with maintaining a 3.8 GPA, Gonzalez, the school’s Associated Student Body President, is involved with about 15 on-campus clubs and community programs, including the Cardinal S.I.N. student run newspaper and MECha, a club that promotes Hispanic culture.

The George Gerth Downtown Organization Volunteer of the Year Award was presented to Maria Arroyo.  When she’s not volunteering for the DO, Maria and her husband, Tony, own and operate the Los Arroyos Mexican Restaurants in Downtown Santa Barbara and Montecito.

A descendent of the De la Guerra family, her grandfather was Superior Judge John T. Rickard of Santa Barbara.

For more information on the DO awards, please contact Jennifer Rose at 962-2098 ext. 22 or 451-4565.


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