18-Year Prison Sentence for Former Bookkeeper
Jennifer Joann Zito, a former employee of Simi Valley Cycles, was sentenced to 18 years in state prison for stealing close to $850,000 in cash and vehicles from the motorcycle store and evading state income taxes on the money.
After a three-week trial, the 37-year old Chatsworth woman was convicted of six counts of corporate embezzlement, seven counts of grand theft, and five counts of felony tax evasion or failing to file a tax return.
Judge James Cloninger handed down her sentence on June 3. In addition, he ordered Zito to pay $1,473,483 in restitution to Simi Valley Cycles. She must also pay us $186,464 in back taxes, fines, and penalties.
According to authorities, while Zito was the bookkeeper for Simi Valley Cycles, she embezzled the cash to support her equestrian business, Havac Farms, and her extravagant lifestyle. She also stole five vehicles from the company by pretending to pay for them with checks that she failed to deposit in the business’ bank account. In addition, Zito stole a motorcycle that she sold to an unwitting party.
Authorities said she doctored records from 2001 to 2006 to cover herself. She also failed to declare any of the stolen money on her personal state income tax returns.
The Ventura County district attorney’s office’s Bureau of Investigation, the Simi Valley Police Department, and we investigated the case. Zito was arrested for her crimes on July 22, 2009.
While Zito was sentenced to pay nearly $1.5 million in restitution, it will be difficult for her to pay that amount from state prison, and the victim will likely not recover the whole amount.