2017-04-21 / Community

Arraignment delayed in embezzlement case

Former executive director of nonprofit due in court May 10

Joanne Abruzzese Joanne Abruzzese The arraignment hearing of the Simi Valley Community Foundation’s former executive director, who is accused of embezzling $55,000 from the nonprofit, has been delayed for the second time.

Joanne Abruzzese, 59, of Simi Valley was originally due to be arraigned March 3 in Ventura County Superior Court. But the hearing was continued to April 13, then again to May 10 at the request of her hired attorney, Kristi Peariso, according to court records.

Peariso could not be reached for comment as of press time Thursday.

Thomas Frye, the Ventura County deputy district attorney handling the case, declined to comment on details of the matter at this time. But, he said, it is “not uncommon for arraignments to be continued by private counsel, especially in document-intensive cases.”

Frye said charges have been filed against Abruzzese, but the delayed arraignment means she has not yet been called to answer for those charges, or enter a plea.

Abruzzese was arrested Feb. 15 on suspicion of three counts of grand theft and one count of forgery, all felonies. She posted $10,000 bail later that day and was released from Ventura County Jail. She remains out of custody.

Her arrest concluded a nearly eight-month investigation by the Ventura County District Attorney’s office into alleged embezzlement from the community foundation.

Abruzzese, who started at the nonprofit in 2012 as a part-time employee working on finances, is suspected of stealing about $55,000 between May 2014 and January 2016 during her tenure as executive director, Frye previously told the Simi Valley Acorn.

She resigned from her post in March 2016 for undisclosed reasons.

If convicted as charged, Abruzzese may face up to five years in jail.

Melissa Simon

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