By Glenn Barr
A Cedar Glen woman charged with three felonies for allegedly stealing more than $120,000 from the Lake Arrowhead attorney who employed her pleaded no contest Tuesday to a charge of grand theft.
Rhona Raye Chavis, 45, was sentenced by San Bernardino Superior Court Judge Michael M. Dest to five years’ probation, ordered to spend 90 days in jail with credit for four days already served and fined a total of $764.
Chavis was also ordered to make restitution to attorney Tim Hill at the rate of $850 a month.
Informed Wednesday of the plea, Hill’s response was, “The justice system has worked, albeit somewhat slowly.”
As part of a plea bargain worked out with Deputy District Attorney Melinda Spencer, the other felony counts—possession of a completed check with intent to defraud and forgery—were dismissed.
Judge Dest ordered Chavis to report to Glen Helen Rehabilitation Center by March 30 to begin her jail term. Under state law, county jail prisoners get credit for two days served for every one day they spend in custody, so Chavis will be behind bars for just 43 days, a district attorney spokesman confirmed.
Hill told The Mountain News after Chavis’ arrest on Aug. 12, 2010, that he had hired her in March of 2007 and fired her in February 2010 for poor job performance.
At the time he terminated her, he said, he had not learned she had pilfered his corporate funds by signing his name to company checks made out to herself or her creditors.
At the time, Hill said, Hill estimated his losses at approximately $120,000. However, in a recent interview he said the thefts had mounted to more than $150,000.
“Various business accounts were altered to conceal her spending,” he said. “Office accounts were jimmied. Some cash deposits never made it to the bank.
“I’m sickened all the more every time I look,” he said. “Then there were the electronic checks. I didn’t look at that before. God knows how much more is going to come to light.”
In addition to the criminal charges against her, Hill filed a civil suit against Chavis on Aug. 23, 2010, seeking recovery of the stolen funds and punitive damages. According to court records, trial in that case is scheduled to begin on March 12, a date which Hill confirmed.
Hill said he “will have to give some thought” to continuing the civil case, now that the criminal case has ended and restitution has been ordered.