Copper embezzler sentenced

Written by Alex MacLean, The Union Democrat September 24, 2012 12:24 pm

An Angels Camp woman who stole more than $25,000 from a Copperopolis homeowners association while employed as its office manager received 270 days in jail and five years of probation.

Heather Kathleen Van Natta, 38, pleaded no contest earlier this month to one felony count of grand theft on Aug. 20. 

 

She also pleaded no contest to felony battery with serious bodily injury and two misdemeanor battery charges, one of which was dismissed, related to separate domestic violence incidents this summer, according to the Calaveras County District Attorney’s Office.

Van Natta was sentenced in Calaveras County Superior Court on Sept. 14. For the battery charges, she received 120 days in jail and five years probation, which she will serve concurrent to her sentence for grand theft, the District                    Attorney’s Office said.

She was first arrested in March following a three-month Calaveras County Sheriff’s Department investigation of claims that she used her position as office manager of Copper Cove at Lake Tulloch Owners Association to overpay her salary and purchase personal items with the association’s credit cards.

Sheriff’s deputies began to investigate Van Natta after receiving a report from members of the association’s board of directors who conducted an internal audit and discovered accounting discrepancies.

They turned their findings over to authorities, who said Van Natta had received extra paychecks and higher wages than was budgeted on several occasions from January to November 2011. 

The total amount of unauthorized pay Van Natta pocketed exceeded $18,000. She also used the association’s credit cards to purchase more than $6,400 worth of fuel and other goods from local businesses.

The District Attorney’s Office said Van Natta was required to surrender at Calaveras County Jail the same day she was sentenced.

She remained in custody at the jail Friday. It was unclear when she would be eligible for release considering possible credit for good behavior, the District Attorney’s  Office said.

The saga was another bruise for the association, which has been stung by a series of controversies over the past decade.

The association gained national notoriety in 2003 when Thomas and Anita Radcliff had their home seized and resold for failing to pay $120 in annual dues. The couple was able to settle out of court and repurchase their home, appraised at $289,000, from an Alameda man who bought it for only $70,000 at a foreclosure auction.

The scandal prompted a law to be passed in 2005 preventing homeowners associations from foreclosing on a member’s home when that member owes less than $1,800.

About two years later, homeowner Ken Gutman, who is handicapped, made a county-approved addition to his home in order to have street-level access to his bedroom. The association sent Gutman a stop-work order weeks after the construction had been completed and imposed fines at the rate of $10 a day without notifying him what he needed to do to make it right.

The matter was eventually settled out of court with Gutman paying a fine of around $15,000.

 Contact Alex MacLean at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it or 588-4530.