The following is a press release issued by the Mendocino County District Attorney’s Office
At the conclusion of a contested sentencing hearing, defendant Sonia Lucia Lau, age 36, of Ukiah, was handcuffed and taken Tuesday morning from a Mendocino County Superior Court courtroom to the Low Gap jail to begin serving a Realignment local prison sentence.
Lau was convicted by plea on December 1, 2020 of eight separate felony counts of embezzling money from her employer while working as the bookkeeper. Included in and covered by the eight counts were 1,194 separate acts of theft by Lau.
Finding the underlying facts to be aggravating, the Court sentenced the defendant to 92 months in the local prison, the maximum sentence allowed by law.
However, as allowed by the 2011 Realignment laws, the Court “split” the defendant’s prison sentence so she will only have to serve “24 months” incarceration with 69 months to follow on “mandatory supervision.”
As part of the Realignment legislative package passed by the California Legislature in 2011, a split sentence allows a judge to split local “prison time” between actual incarceration and a period of community supervision by a county probation officer.
Because of that same legislation, Lau will only have to serve one-half of the prison sentence as ordered, meaning 12 months in jail.
While both the prosecutor and the probation department agreed that a split sentence was appropriate, District Attorney David Eyster argued at the hearing that the split should be 48 months incarceration with 44 months to follow on mandatory supervision. The Adult Probation Department had recommended a split of 36 months incarceration with 56 months to follow on mandatory supervision. The final sentence as ordered undercut both of those recommendations to the defendant’s advantage.
As mandated by law, the defendant was ordered to repay $204,492.43 in restitution to the victim at the rate of at least $1,000 per month. But as pointed out by the DA, the legal rate of interest on restitution debts is 10% per annum. “Even if she makes payments as ordered each and every month, the restitution payments being required of the defendant will never come close to even touching the stolen principle that is owed,” said Eyster.
As noted in the probation report, the victim reported that Lau had worked for him for 15 years. He had known Lau since she was a teenager and, later on, had financially helped her to purchase a home. The defendant admitted she was treated like a surrogate daughter by the victim.
As cruel repayment for the victim’s kindness, during the law enforcement investigation it was uncovered, for example, that Lau spent $15,000 of the victim’s money in one week attending San Francisco Giants baseball games. On another outing, she spent $12,000 of the victim’s money attending an Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) fight night. The victim also unknowingly paid for the defendant’s breast augmentation. And the victim is still saddled with paying off over $50,000 in credit card debt that was run-up by Lau.
The law enforcement agency that investigated this case and developed the necessary evidence to support the convictions was the Ukiah Police Department.
The prosecutor who originally filed the charges and handled the case through today’s sentencing hearing is DA Eyster.
Mendocino County Superior Court Judge Carly Dolan presided over today’s sentencing hearing.