Embezzlement case sent to district court | RecordCourier.com
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Embezzlement case sent to district court

by Sheila Gardner

A Dayton woman accused of stealing $171,679.61 from a mentally disabled man who eventually died of a brain tumor is to appear in District Court on Feb. 7.

Defendant Sandra Vasquez waived her right to a preliminary hearing Friday about an hour after the proceeding began in East Fork Justice Court.

Judge Jim EnEarl bound the case over on felony charges of embezzlement and grand theft.

He refused to reduce Vasquez’s $25,000 bail or release her on her own recognizance.

“In addition to a great deal of missing money – more than $68,000 dispersed after the victim’s death – I am not prepared to allow Ms. Vasquez to be released on her own recognizance or change her bail status,” EnEarl said.

Vasquez, 44, has been in Douglas County Jail since her arrest Dec. 20.

Her lawyer, Eric Hoshizaki of Reno, said Vasquez had no criminal record and had lived in the area for six years.

If she were released, Hoshizaki said she would be able to return to work as a tax preparer at a Sparks company.

He said she was a former employee of the state Public Utility Commission and was not a flight risk.

Prosecutor Mark Jackson argued that Vasquez had six aliases using the same Social Security number.

“We can’t even be sure exactly who we have here,” Jackson said.

He also said $115,000 of the missing money was unaccounted for.

Sheriff’s investigator Phil Lesquereux testified Friday he began investigating the defendant in August, a year after the victim, William J. Reifer died of brain cancer.

Reifer, 63, was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic at age 12. His father set up a $2 million trust fund in 1993 to provide financial security for his son.

In April 2004, Reifer had surgery for a brain tumor which left him partially paralyzed and unable to speak intelligibly.

A month after the surgery, Reifer allegedly made the first of three amendments to the trust which turned his residence over to Isila Margoth Hurtado and gave her 48 percent of his trust estate.

The original beneficiaries had been Reifer’s two sisters.

He was moved to Evergreen Healthcare in Gardnerville where he made two more amendments, according to Lesquereux’s investigation, changing Hurtado’s share of the estate to 72 percent.

Reifer allegedly appointed Vasquez trustee with authority to make any gifts from the trust she desired and reportedly hired her as an assistant at $90 an hour.

“I haven’t determined yet what that means service-wise,” Lesquereux testified. “There is no indication what they were alleging the services were.”

Reifer died Aug. 12, 2004, but Vasquez continued to spend his money, according to the investigation.

District Judge Michael Gibbons issued a court order Oct. 4, 2004, sought by the family to stop Vasquez from spending the money.

Within three days from the order, Vasquez reportedly had taken $79,000 from the trust account, according to court documents.

“Through forensics accounting, we estimate she took $171,679.61 over a 3-1/2-month period,” Jackson said. “She paid herself $58,000 in an employment agreement in two months. Even if that stood up, we have $115,000 that is unaccounted for.”

According to court documents Reifer’s family was unable to find proof that Vasquez was appointed the victim’s legal guardian or had power of attorney.