Two Bookkeepers and Family Charged With Stealing $1M from Zirkle Fruit

The Yakima Herald reports two bookkeepers and nine of their family and friends are charged in a years-long payroll scheme, stealing close to $1 million from Zirkle Fruit Company.

Norma Ruth Garza, 52, and Maria Teresa Galarza, 38, were allegedly the organizers of this theft ring out of the Peterson, WA, office, which issued paychecks to employees who were on the payroll list, although never performed work for the fruit company.

An investigation into the company’s payroll began when a ranch manager questioned why there were extra checks for non-employees on a day when both Galarza and Garza were off on payday. When both women called in claiming the checks were a mistake, the unusual nature of their calls triggered the investigation, The Herald reports.

“The wage theft operation appears to be isolated to individual office employees at a single ranch and controls have been implemented to protect against future such operations,” a statement from Zirkle Fruit said. “Zirkle Fruit offers among the highest wages and most generous benefits in the fruit industry and these types of events are exceedingly rare.”

Garza was recently arrested in Southern California on a $100,000 warrant. She is awaiting extradition to face charges of leading organized crime and four counts of forgery, The Herald reports.

A warrant is issued for Galarza and her husband, Gernoimo Marquez Galarza, when they missed their first court appearance. Galarza is charged with first-degree identity theft and five counts of forgery. Geronimo Galarza, 44, is charged with first-degree theft and three counts of forgery.

While the trial is set for David Prado, 47, of Pasco, WA, Mario David Prado, 20, of Kennewick, WA, and Veronica Araceli Garza, 37, of Prosser, WA, who are charged with first-degree theft and three counts of forgery. Marisela Cristian Prado, 26, and Esmeralda Prado, 46, both of Kennewick, WA, are charged with first-degree theft and four counts of forgery. Enrique Barriga Moreno, 58, of Grandview, WA, is charged with first-degree theft and eight counts of forgery. Jennifer Marie Barriga, 19, of Grandview, WA, is charged with one count of first-degree theft.

A $5,000 arrest warrant has been issued for Juan Antonio Ulloa, 59, who faces first-degree theft and three counts of forgery.

The payroll investigation dates back to April 2010 and totaled $956,153 in fraudulent paychecks.

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4 comments on “Two Bookkeepers and Family Charged With Stealing $1M from Zirkle Fruit

  1. This shows the importance of getting a financial audit performed. Even small companies should consider hiring a CPA to perform an audit each year, or at least consult on controls.

  2. Similar cases occurred in CA churches where Hispanic bookkeepers defrauded churches by millions of $ over a period of several years. Purchasing beachfront properties and expensive vehicles. It was while on days off that the fraud was discovered by church leaders.
    It has proven costly to employ people who are willing to work for a lower wage in strategic positions as these. Hopefully the money will be recovered in the form of property investments, most of it is probably over the border in Mexico.

    1. Bookkeepers of any race have been found guilty of fraud, I feel you should reconsider selecting one race at which to point fingers. All it takes it opportunity, motive, and justification (fraud triangle). Ideally good controls limit the opportunity. We are all but human.

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