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DAs: Separately, bookkeepers steal nearly $1M from employers

Joanne Rocca, 67, of Merrick, was arrested by

Joanne Rocca, 67, of Merrick, was arrested by Nassau County district attorney investigators and charged with grand larceny and criminal possession of a forged instrument, prosecutors said. (May 8, 2013) Credit: NCDA

Bookkeepers in Merrick and Brightwaters were charged this week with stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from their respective employers and spending the money on items ranging from personal bills to a lavish trip to the Super Bowl in New Orleans, prosecutors said.

Christa Ramos, also known as Christa Riccaldo, 44, of Brightwaters, was arraigned Wednesday on charges of second-degree grand larceny after an investigation by the economic crimes bureau in the Suffolk County district attorney's office revealed she had charged $300,000 to fund vacations and sporting events, prosecutors said.

Bail for Ramos was set at $500,000 cash or $1 million bond.

Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota was not immediately available for comment.

Authorities said Ramos has "a lengthy criminal record" that includes convictions in Rockland County and Queens, and said her most recent conviction was in 2005 for second-degree forgery for which she was sentenced to 3 to 6 years in state prison.

She was paroled in July 2007, authorities said, and Spota's investigation started when a parole officer tracked her down at work in March after she failed to check in.

Ramos served as the bookkeeper for 2 Brothers Scrap Metal Inc. in Farmingdale, authorities said.

During her tenure from October 2007 until March, authorities said Ramos embezzled about $600,000.

In addition to the checks she wrote in excess of $240,000, officials said, she charged more than $100,000 on sporting event tickets -- including $17,000 to fund a Super Bowl trip to New Orleans.

Authorities said she also used company funds to pay for vacations to Brazil, Las Vegas and to Turks and Caicos. She also paid off about $15,000 in car expenses and more than $2,000 on veterinary bills.

Also this week, Joanne Rocca, 67, was arrested by Nassau County district attorney investigators and charged with second-degree grand larceny and 37 counts of criminal possession of a forged instrument.

Rocca pleaded not guilty at her arraignment Monday before District Court Judge Colin O'Donnell, and was conditionally released to probation. She is due back in court June 5.

She faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

"Mrs. Rocca is a loving mother and a devoted wife who has the full support of her family and friends," said her attorney, Anthony LaPinta of Hauppauge.

Prosecutors said Rocca used her position as the bookkeeper for a Plainview-based building maintenance and real estate company to embezzle about $456,000 from her employer by arranging automatic payments from the company's accounts to pay her cable, gasoline, grocery and utility bills, and to purchase home furnishings.

The theft was discovered in May 2011 when her employer discovered a company check made out to Rocca's American Express account on her desk while she was at lunch, prosecutors said.

Though Rocca denied the accusation, prosecutors say an internal review of the company's checkbook, bank statements and accounts revealed the truth.

"For Ms. Rocca to steal this much money over such an extended period of time shows a complete disregard for the rule of the law and a total lack of respect for the trust placed in her by her employer," said Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice.

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