The preliminary hearing for Crowley resident Debra Ray, arrested in April on suspicion of embezzlement of about $29,000 from the Crowley Lake Mutual Water Company, concluded on Monday morning, July 8 after three days of evidence and testimony.
At her arraignment on April 22, Ray pled “not guilty” to 22 counts of embezzlement from the Water Company. Ray served as a Water Company Board member from approximately 1998 to the middle of 2011, working for several years as Treasurer before she took over as both Treasurer and President from 2010-2011. She was voted off the Board later in 2011.
The alleged embezzlement, which was the subject of a long-term Mono County investigation, occurred between 2008-2011, when, according to Mono County District Attorney Tim Kendall, Ray drafted checks payable to herself and her husband, Ron Raczkowski, for work not performed, in addition to reimbursements for expenses that the Water Company had already paid. Checks ranged from about $100 to $5,000.
The Mono County District Attorney’s office charged Ray with one count of embezzlement for the full $29,000, and another 21 counts, 2-22, for each separate check as a theft of public money under Penal Code 424. However, Penal Code 424 defines public money as “all bonds and evidence of indebtedness, and all moneys belonging to the state, or any city, county, town, district, or public agency therein.”
On Monday, presiding Judge Stan Eller dismissed counts 4-22 under Penal Code 424 because of insufficient evidence that the funds possibly embezzled by Ray were of state, city, county, town, or district origin. As two witnesses testified, Water Company funds originated from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a federal agency.
Counts 2-3 were dismissed prior to Monday.
The remaining count, count 1, charges Debra Ray under Penal Code 503 with the entire $29,000 embezzlement, rather than charging her for each check under 424. In spite of Judge Eller’s dismissal of counts 4-22, “No portion of the embezzlement has gone away,” clarified Deputy D.A. Daniel Lengeman. “Debra Ray hasn’t been exonerated of anything.”
Had Ray been charged for all counts, Lengeman said she would have been subject to as many as 21 years of imprisonment. The maximum time she might serve if found guilty of the remaining count is three years, he said.
Debra Ray is scheduled for an arraignment on July 22 at 10 a.m. Her trial must begin within 60 days of that date.