A former bookkeeper for a Cambria construction business turned herself in Monday, April 24, after prosecutors filed 12 felony charges of grand theft by embezzlement Wednesday, and Superior Court Judge Denise de Bellefeuille issued an arrest warrant.
Elizabeth Edith Shaw, 68, is accused of stealing more than $1 million from Winsor Construction when she was employed by the firm between Jan. 1, 2005, and March 7, 2016, according to the criminal complaint. The complaint said that Linda Winsor had uncovered the alleged embezzling “when she discovered there were nonsufficient funds within the Winsor operating account to cover company payroll.”
Shaw was booked into San Luis Obispo County Jail, where she remained Tuesday in lieu of $1 million bail. She also faces three additional felony enhancements relating to the amount of money allegedly stolen and falsifying company bookkeeping records.
Shaw is also known by the surnames of French, Arnold and Stieler.
She was to have been arraigned Wednesday, April 26, in San Luis Obispo Superior Court, Assistant District Attorney Lee Cunningham said in a news release. If she is convicted of all charges, the release said, Shaw faces a maximum of 16 years and four months in prison.
According to the release, Shaw’s arrest is the culmination of a 10-month investigation by the county Sheriff’s Office and the District Attorney Office’s fraud unit.
Tim and Linda Winsor of Winsor Construction are still in shock over the alleged theft and betrayal by someone he’s known “for close to 50 years,” he said in a phone interview Tuesday, April 25. “This hit us like an atom bomb.”
He explained that he’s known Shaw and her former husband for decades, “since they had the parts store in Cambria.”
Shaw has filed for bankruptcy, according to Winsor. The construction firm has sued her in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California and San Luis Obispo Superior Court.
Winsor said the massive loss of funds “still hurts,” primarily because it not only affected him and his wife, but it also affected “a dozen other families who work for us … all my employees, who could have gotten more raises, more bonuses, better tools to use for the past 15 years” if the money he hadn’t known was missing had been available for those and other expenditures.
“Linda and I, we’re going to survive,” Winsor said. But it’s really hard to go through something like this, he added, especially at this time in their lives, when they’d begun to think about slowing down and eventually retiring.
Andrew Sheeler and Matt Fountain contributed to this story.