Sacto 9-1-1
January 16, 2013
Couple to be sentenced in Davis embezzlement case

A Brentwood couple indicted by a Yolo County grand jury in 2010 awaits sentencing after pleading to charges in the embezzlement from a Davis business.

Kara Leigh Brown, 43, on Friday pleaded to a charge of accessory to a felony for assisting in the theft and embezzlement by her husband, Benjamin Joseph Chaney, 32. On the same date, Chaney admitted that he embezzled between $100,000 and $500,000. Chaney previously had pleaded to the majority of charges in the case involving multiple theft-related felonies and felony tax evasion, according to a Yolo County District Attorney's Office news release. Brown agreed to pay $340,000 in restitution to the victims.

From 2003 to 2007, Chaney was employed as chief financial officer for Harper Model Home Maintenance, a Davis company owned by the Harper family and specializing in model home cleaning. Family members did most of the work themselves, but as the business grew, they hired Chaney, their son-in-law at the time, in various management positions, authorities said. He eventually became the chief financial officer.

After Chaney's marriage ended, the Harpers kept him on as CFO. In 2003, authorities said, Chaney began stealing from the company by writing checks and using the company credit card for various personal items, including gifts, child-support payments, electronics, computers, home mortgage payments, furniture and appliances, amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars over the five-year period.

The thefts were not discovered until November 2007, after Chaney left the firm and a review of his work computer showed that he had started a competing business using funds from the Harpers' business.

Brown, Chaney's second wife, was involved in the criminal acts from 2005 to 2007, officials said.

As part of the plea agreement, Brown will receive probation and Chaney agreed to serve five years in state prison, according to the news release. They are to be sentenced Feb. 22 by Yolo Superior Court Judge Stephen L. Mock, who presided over the case.

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