Downey woman pleads not guilty to embezzling $1.2M

DOWNEY – A Downey woman who worked in the payroll department of an Irvine real estate management company pleaded not guilty last month to charges that she embezzled more than $1.2 million. 

Trisha Chopin was arrested Aug. 28 and ordered to return to court Oct. 5 for a pretrial conference. Her trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 20. 

According to a federal indictment, Chopin worked for SteadFast Companies, which employs about 900 workers. 

Chopin is accused of manipulating the payroll system to make it appear as if checks made out to her were going to other employees. She is also accused of forging the signature of Steadfast’s chief financial officer.

The alleged embezzlement is said to have started in 2008. The indictment accuses Chopin of taking in approximately $1.2 million and using the money on “lavish vacations” and personal expenses. 

Steadfast was alerted to the alleged embezzlement by its payroll company, ADP Payroll Services. Steadfast turned the case over to federal authorities after conducting an internal investigation. 

In addition to living in Downey, Chopin has been listed on IRS forms as treasurer of the Gallatin Elementary PTA.