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Bookkeeper accused of embezzling nearly $60K from local construction company

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Kelly Barnes-Garcia, 41, was arrested on Monday for allegedly embezzling over $50,000 from an east valley construction company in a case that dates back to 2016.

According to the arrest warrant, the Riverside County Sheriff's Department was first notified of the possible embezzlement of the Coachella-based Jones Brothers Construction on Aug. 4, 2016.

The company's management told investigators Barnes-Garcia was hired about 16 months prior to their call to help manage the finances of the company. A week before notifying deputies, management began to notice Barnes-Garcia was writing company checks to herself and forging their signature, according to the arrest warrant.

The arrest warrant further revealed that after their initial call, the company did a more further audit and discovered Barnes-Garcia had allegedly embezzled approximately $57,255.20 from the company.

Additionally, Barnes-Garcia is accused of writing 9 checks to approved vendors to pay company bills, however, she forged the owners' signatures.

Barnes-Garcia denied all accusations when initially questioned by investigators in Nov. 2016, citing back pay or days off covered, court docs reveal.

There were two notable instances that stood out to investigators.

One was a check dated on 06/09/16 for $847.57 in which Barnes-Garcia "did not have a logical answer as to why she received" other than an accounting error.

The second instance was a $1,985.00 check written to a school travel company - World Strides.

"Kelley explained the owners donated the money to her daughter' s spring break school trip to Europe. I told Kelly the owners did not approve this check," reads the investigator's notes from the interview.

Barnes-Garcia said the owner's approved the check, however, when later question the owner's denied donating money for the trip and even said they were never asked to donate.

"At the time, he wondered how she could afford to send her daughter to Europe. After they reviewed their business records, they discovered an unauthorized check was written to a travel agency- World Strides," reads the notes from the interview.

According to John Hall, Barnes-Garcia also has a couple previous similar cases. There are no further details on those cases at this time. 

Barnes-Garcia faces 51 counts of embezzling and forgery. She pleaded guilty to all counts on Wednesday and will have a felony settlement conference scheduled for March 20. She remains in custody at Indio Jail.

Stay with News Channel 3 for any updates.

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Jesus Reyes

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