A former office manager for Orange County dentists will spend two years in jail after she pleaded guilty this week to charges that she embezzled more than $100,000 in insurance payments.
Deborah Lynn Kessler, 45, was accused of signing the payments over to her personal bank accounts over the course of about three years. Investigators initially said she may have used the money to pay for an RV, boats and trips, and to cover her personal bills. Her attorney disputed that.
Kessler pleased guilty on Thursday to four counts of grand theft, court records show. She was sentenced to two years in jail and two more years of community supervision. She was also banned from working in dental offices, Deputy District Attorney Nikki Chambers said.
“She’s remorseful,” said Kessler’s attorney, Mitchell Hannah. “And her focus now is on restitution.”
Hannah blamed “hard economic times” for the theft. He said Kessler took small amounts that added up over time. He disputed early reports from the Sheriff’s Department that Kessler may have used the money to buy an RV or make other big purchases.
Kessler was arrested in July at her Canyon Lake home. She was on the phone applying for a job with a San Clemente dentist when deputies arrived, a Sheriff’s spokesman said at the time.
The case against Kessler started earlier this year when a new dentist took over the Ladera Ranch dental office where she had worked for three years. The new owner began to notice discrepancies in the office finances, investigators said.
The new and former office owners took a closer look and found insurance checks missing, a Sheriff’s spokesman said. Investigators believe Kessler changed them, endorsed them and then deposited them into her own accounts.
She stopped showing up for work in June, days after her employers contacted the sheriff’s economic-crimes unit.