A senior level Santa Barbara County accountant is among seven people arrested in connection with an alleged misappropriation of approximately $1.7 million in public funds.

Lynn Hogan, who was among those arrested on charges of theft of public funds, forgery and conspiracy, is a senior level accountant in the Public Works Department and has worked for the county since 1988.

District Attorney Joyce Dudley, who announced the arrests Thursday, said the others taken into custody were not employed by the county.

The other arrestees include Michele Lavin, Leanna Harada, Christina Huffman, Michael Anzivino and Vincent Anzivino, all residents of Santa Barbara or Ventura counties.

Also arrested were Wendy Puchili, a resident of Wyoming, and Richard Kaplinski, currently a resident of Merced.

All are being held on $550,000 bail except Kaplinski and Harada, whose bail was set at $475,000.

Arraignment is set for Monday, Sept. 25, in Department 8 of Santa Barbara County Superior Court.

Dudley said an arrest warrant on the same charges was also issued for Michael Elliott of Pennsylvania.

The District Attorney’s Office was alerted to potential criminal activity by the County Auditor-Controller’s Office after it reportedly noticed suspicious activity in July and attempts to bypass internal control processes.

The alleged fraud potentially involves diversion of about $1.7 million cumulatively over many years from various funds in Public Works, Dudley said.

The precise amount of the alleged theft is still under investigation. Losses due to employee malfeasance are covered by the county’s insurance.

The county will be working with its insurer on a claim to recover the funds. No public funds will be lost, according to County Executive Officer Mona Miyasato.

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Since it was discovered, the auditor-controller and Public Works director have been working with the DA's Office, Miyasato said.

“We will get to the bottom of this and ensure there is full accountability for those responsible,” she said. "We are aware that a criminal charge is an accusation, and any defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

“The county will be ordering a forensic audit by an independent accounting firm and a review of internal controls, financial systems and policies.”

She added: “The independent audit will provide us more information to further shore up safeguards and controls as necessary.” 

Further details are limited because the criminal investigation is ongoing, Dudley said.

“We recognize the trust placed by those we serve; it’s a significant responsibility that we take very seriously,” said Joan Hartmann, chair of the County Board of Supervisors. “We are committed to being responsible stewards of public funds to ensure no one can defraud our residents and taxpayers or this organization.

"Staff will continue to fully cooperate with the District Attorney’s Office in its investigation.”

Logan B. Anderson covers city government in Santa Maria for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter: @LoganBAnderson.

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