The auditor general continues to investigate the alleged embezzlement of money from the Pine Strawberry Water Improvement District and Sunny Mountain Realty, a complex and still mysterious case involving at least $724,937 in forged checks.
The Roundup has obtained the copy of an investigative interview of Rebecca Sigeti — bookkeeper for both the water district and the real estate company, in which she admits forging some checks.
The relationship between PSWID and Sunny Mountain was incorrectly stated in a previous Roundup article. The building that housed both PSWID and Sunny Mountain, is owned by a gentleman from California.
Sigeti has not been charged with anything in connection with the forged checks.
In the interview with investigators, she admitted forging some of the checks and maintains she paid all the money back — roughly $147,000.
The Gila County Sheriff’s Office has turned the interview over to the auditor general’s office, which refused comment on its ongoing investigation.
Several members of the Pine Water board have confirmed the auditor general is investigating some $300,000 in money missing from the water district, forged checks and a second set of financial records. The auditor general previously got a search warrant for Sigeti’s computer.
The interview conducted by the sheriff’s investigators sheds new light on the case and the murky connection between the water district and the real estate company.
In the GCSO report, the investigator questioned Sigeti about 189 forged checks totaling $724,937 written between 2010 and 2015. The checks were written on the account of Sunny Mountain Real Estate Company. Sunny Mountain is no longer in business. The account also showed 25 mysterious deposits totaling $444,289.76.
The sheriff’s report does not indicate where the deposits came from. The report calls them a “mystery,” but reports from former PSWID staff and board members indicate the auditor general has found $300,000 missing from PSWID books. The AG also reportedly discovered a second set of books.
Some 175 forged checks were made out to Sigeti with a signature that did not match the owner of the account.
The remainder were made out to Home Depot, American Express, Sears, Tile Craft and Equidata.
Sigeti owned the TMS Accounting Services bookkeeping company. Besides the real estate company, Sigeti told investigators that other clients included the Pine Strawberry Water Improvement District and Allstate Insurance.
Sigeti worked at PSWID at the same time treasurer Mike Greer served on the board.
Greer is currently facing eight felony counts for conflict of interest, theft, fraudulent schemes and forgery in scams totaling more than $100,000.
In an interview conducted by Detective Ron Hance of the Gila County Sheriff’s Office, Sigeti admits she forged only some of the checks.
“Were you ever authorized to sign business check for (name redacted)?” asked Hance.
“No,” said Sigeti.
“In the course of your employment with (redacted) or (redacted), how many checks did you actually sign?” asked Hance.
“I think maybe six,” said Sigeti.
“Did you sign your name or (redacted)’s name?” said Hance.
“I signed (redacted)’s name,” said Sigeti.
“Did you write checks to yourself?” said Hance.
“Yes,” said Sigeti.
When Hance asked if she had signed checks to Home Depot and the other vendors, Sigeti said she only wrote checks to American Express and Tile Craft, a company owned by her husband.
Sigeti explained that her son had passed away, her father was sick and her husband was disabled, so she was desperate to pay the funeral and medical costs.
She said she paid back what she took with two deposits, one for $73,000 and the other for $48,000, as well as two cashier’s checks totaling $47,550.
When Hance told Sigeti the sheriff’s office had copies of the bank statements, forged checks and deposits showing more than $700,000 was taken and more than $400,000 was deposited, Sigeti expressed shock and disbelief.
“There is just no possible way, no possible way,” she told Hance.
She said she only owed the $168,000 and paid that back in the two deposits she made to the account and the two cashier’s checks she paid the owner of Sunny Mountain. However, Hance said that didn’t cover the full difference between the forged checks and mysterious deposits.
“On October 14 you gave her a cashier’s check for $42,300 and on October 15 you gave her another one for $5,250, does that sound about right, totaling $47,550. Does that sound about right?” said Hance.
“Yes, that’s what I owed her,” said Sigeti.
“That still leaves $233,097.34?” said Hance.
“No, no possible way,” said Sigeti.
Then Hance asked Sigeti about the deposits.
“Where did the money come from for those deposits?” said Hance.
“My daughter-in-law got like insurance money from my son and she gave me the money,” said Sigeti.
Hance then asked if Sigeti had other clients besides PSWID and the real estate company. Sigeti said she worked for Jeannie Weatherly who had an Allstate Insurance office.
As Sigeti concluded the interview with Hance, she indicated that an assistant who worked for the owner of Sunny Mountain would write checks “all the time.”
The GCSO has since passed this evidence onto the auditor general’s office.