A local woman who is accused of embezzling more than $400,000 from a well-known local auto body company in Yuma, AZ, and nearly causing it to go out of business appeared in court for her sentencing Wednesday, July 24, but instead moved the appearance to an aggravation mitigation hearing following the victim's statement made in court.
Laura Matus was supposed to appear in Yuma Superior Court for her sentencing but after the victim, who is one of the shop's owners came forward for a statement, the judge gave her the options of going forward with what was stated in the plea agreement with a maximum of one-year jail time. The other option was to reject the stipulation in the plea agreement with the possibility of facing three-and-a-half years in prison.
Judge Haws previously stated that he planned to sentence Matus to serve 60 months of probation and order that she pay $346,000 in restitution to Dicks Auto Rebuilders, located at 201 West 24th Street. She had worked at the auto shop for 34 years as the office manager before being fired.
The business owner, Linda Rautenberg, said she would be willing to choose the one-year jail time which is the maximum amount of time the defendant can serve.
Matus pleaded guilty May 15 to one count of theft as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors. In doing so, she had to admit that from Jan. 2015 through Dec. 17, 2018, she embezzled more than $100,000 from the company by writing checks to herself and making unauthorized cash withdrawals.
According to court records from December 2017, Linda Rautenberg, who is the wife of Warren Rautenberg, the owner of Dicks Auto Rebuilders, became suspicious that Matus might be stealing from the company after she went to pick up her dry cleaning and was given items that belonged to her, such as comforters and home goods.
Linda Rautenberg fired Matus in December 2017. When Matus' desk was cleared out, a stack of pre-written checks was found underneath her desktop calendar already made out to her.