Castillo pleads guilty to embezzling $1.2 million

Monday, September 14, 2015

Stephanie Castillo pleaded guilty to eight counts of theft by swindle and is expected to receive 80 months in prison for stealing more than $1.2 million from her employer, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced Monday.

Castillo, 42, of Eden Prairie, also admitted to several aggravating circumstances, including committing a major economic crime, which allowed the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office to seek a higher sentence. Under the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines, Castillo would have faced between 49 and 68 months in prison for the eight counts of theft by swindle above $35,000. She will be sentenced Nov. 23.

According to the criminal complaint and her admissions in court Monday morning, Castillo started working at Balderson Management Co. of Golden Valley in 2009. The company, which is owned by Castillo's mother, Cynthia Balderson, is a property management company for commercial properties. The companies that owned the properties would hire Balderson to handle leasing and maintenance of the properties.

Beginning in 2010, Castillo began inventing invoices for services such as snow removal. Then, using the checkbooks of the property owners, she would make out the check to herself and forge her mother's signature, according to the complaint. Unless someone looked at the actual check, it would appear that a check was written to a legitimate company.

One of the property owners became suspicious in September 2014 and did review the checks. He then called Golden Valley police to investigate. When confronted by police, Castillo said she spent about half of the money on her shopping addiction and sent the other half to her husband who was starting a business in Mexico.

While Castillo ultimately stole more than $1.3 million, the amounts from 2009 fell outside the statute of limitations, so she was only charged with stealing $1.22 million beginning in October 2010, according to the criminal complaint.