BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Local Bakersfield divorce attorney Heather Christiansen Stanley, 47, was indicted on Feb. 20 on eight counts of fraud and evading taxes after allegedly embezzling around $1 million from a client.
Stanley was indicted with five counts of wire fraud, two counts of mail fraud, and one count of attempt to evade and defeat assessment of a tax.
According to court documents, Stanley was in charge of holding funds for her clients in a bank account for safekeeping during their divorce proceedings. The money belonged to her clients’ and was not owed to Stanley for legal fees or otherwise.
Instead of maintaining and protecting these funds, Stanley would use the funds for her own personal gain. Stanley often would not return the funds or would not return the full amount to her clients. In some instances, when Stanley returned the funds to her clients, she used other clients’ funds to make these payments.
According the the State Bar, Stanley received two checks from her client, Cynthia Bangi, on or around August 5, 2010 and May 2, 2011. The checks totaled $1,052,311.57.
Stanley failed to deposit the money received for the benefit of the client in to a bank account and deposited the money in to an account she owned with Kern Schools Federal Credit Union. This happened between July 25, 2013 and November 14, 2013.
Bangi asked for an accounting of the funds eight times, and Stanley failed to give accurate information.
Stanley wrote to the State Bar on August 13, 2016 that she purchased cashier’s checks and returned all funds in trust held on behalf of her client. She also showed a client lodger card that the funds disbursed to Bangi.
The State Bar said these statements were false in the document.
If convicted, Stanley faces a maximum statutory penalty of up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 for the wire and mail fraud counts and up to five years in prison and a $100,000 fine on the tax evasion charge.