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A woman hinted that her family’s business will not survive the dishonest bookkeeper who embezzled more than $5 million from their company in San Marcos.

One of the owners of Proformance Apparel said that more than 90 people who worked for the company are now “devastated.” Debbie Sawyer, 60, and her husband Richard Sawyer, 74, came to San Diego’s North County Courthouse to see the former financial officer for their company sentenced to nine years State prison this afternoon, April 15, 2013.

Elizabeth Ann Masters, 45, last month admitted stealing millions from the company in a plea deal. Debbie Sawyer spoke to the judge for ten minutes before sentence was pronounced. Sawyer expressed shock at Elizabeth Masters’ betrayal. “She was a guest at my daughter’s wedding!”

Elizabeth Masters stood in a holding cell with her head bowed, she never looked up and she never spoke. Debbie Sawyer said, “She built a false sense of friendship. As I think back, I cannot believe how easily she deceived all of us.”

“It is clear to me, I have been very, very wrong about this woman, the entire time she worked for Proformance.”

“Masters started stealing and lying right from the beginning. She had been working at Proformance for just one week when she fraudulently wrote her first expense check to herself, and continued to embezzle funds for the next ten years. Only to enrich her life, the life of a drug-dependent husband, her parents, her horse ranch of 80 horses, while destroying the lives of the victims.”

“It is clear to me that Masters planned to bankrupt the company.”

Debbie Sawyer’s voice cracked when she told the court, “Everything we worked for the past 30 years is now gone.” Debbie Sawyer was tearful when she described herself, “I am a sixty-year-old elementary school teacher.”

“All of our personal assets and savings have gone to keep the company afloat. And it continues to be very, very difficult. Actually impossible.”

“Actually, we are left without any financial stability. And it scares me.”

“The real consequences of Liz Master’s crimes have been felt by everybody except Liz Masters.”

Judge David L. Berry today sentenced Masters to nine years State prison. And he ordered Elizabeth Masters to pay $5,742,599 restitution to her victim, and $654,646 to the “Franchise Tax Board” of the State of California.

Elizabeth Masters admitted grand theft and forgery and filing a false tax return, according to prosecutor Anna Winn. “The victims will have a recordable judgment for the full amount of their loss, but I do not believe there are any outstanding assets to reimburse them for their loss. All evidence suggests that all the stolen money is gone,” the prosecutor said.

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Visduh April 16, 2013 @ 9:21 a.m.

While it is impossible not to feel some sympathy for the victims in this case, it is likewise impossible to understand how they could have been deceived so massively for so long. Sawyer makes a couple strange comments. The first is "It is clear to me that Masters planned to bankrupt the company.” That is nonsensical because Masters was managing to loot the company, and cared only for what it was worth to her. Survival of the company was necessary for her to continue to loot it. Sawyer's comment ". . . I cannot believe how easily she deceived all of us” is true. Nobody can believe how she was able to pull off that deception. The part that cannot be understood is how the owners of a lucrative business had no sense of how profitable it was, and how little notion they had of the actual finances of the operation. In other words, they were making money 'hand over fist", apparently didn't know it, and had no awareness of how little of the profits were still available after years of great success. Very hard to understand. Yet, it is obvious they made the bush league error of all time, that of letting the bookkeeper write AND sign the checks. The simple step of insuring that all checks were signed by someone (Sawyer or her husband would have been best) other than the keeper of the financial records would have made this scheme impossible or at least much, much harder to pull off. I'll bet that one of the things the Masters did was look and act borderline stupid. Usually, and most people would not ever think of this, embezzlers come across as too dumb to know how to steal. Hence they seldom raise suspicion or skepticism.


walkamile April 16, 2013 @ 3:11 p.m.

While "Visduh" is correct about the "bush league" error of all time, duh......perhaps Visduh should keep one's opinions to one's self until you walked-a-mile in any victims shoes. Have you ever lost a child in a mass school killing? Have you ever run a marathon race when bombs exploded? No, no I think not. Pretty easy for someone to read an article on line and make any assumption they wish and yet know nothing, nothing, I repeat, NOTHING about a criminal case except what you read or see in the media.


Visduh April 16, 2013 @ 5:41 p.m.

Ooh, touched a nerve, did I? Do you know anything more about this case than I read in an "article on line?" (Actually it has been the subject of a series of articles in the Reader.) If you do, please share it. The comments about unfortunate events around the nation have no bearing upon this case, and are probably an example of "if logic fails, then fall back on emotion." So what's your point, walkamile?


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