Friday, felony charges were filed against 53-year-old Catherine Abou-Remeleh, a
former employee of the Belmont-based Mid-Peninsula Water District (MPWD), accused
of writing checks from the utility’s account to cover personal gambling debts.
According to San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe, Abou-Remeleh, who worked in MPWD’s finance office, allegedly wrote herself 187 checks from the agency’s Wells Fargo account from November 2008 through November 2011.
In November 2011, Abou-Remeleh suffered a serious stroke and could not return to work as an administrative services manager.
A district employee, who took over Abou-Remeleh’s responsibilities while she was on sick leave, discovered the discrepancies in the district’s financial records, prompting a full forensic audit. Prosecutors believe Abou-Remeleh had a gambling addiction and stole the money to pay gambling debts.
Abou-Remeleh is scheduled to appear in San Mateo County Superior Court on Nov. 12 for her first hearing. According to Wagstaffe, the charges filed against her on Friday include theft of government funds, embezzlement and identity theft.
According to the San Jose Mercury News, MPWD board president Albert Stuebing said new financial controls have been put in place at the water agency, including requiring multiple signatures on checks drawn from the account to pay bills.
MPWD has about 8,000 customers and operates on a roughly $9 million budget. Insurance has covered the $247,000 loss. It serves the Belmont, portions of San Carlos and unincorporated county areas.
Prosecutors say that although Abou-Remeleh is disabled and has lived in an assisted living facilty since her 2011 stroke, she will make an appearance in court on Nov. 12.
Michael K. Wendler is the deputy district attorney on the case.
Abou-Remeleh’s attorney is Steve Teich.