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Stephen Jay Carlton, Former Executive Director of California's Peninsula Symphony, Facing Felony Embezzlement Charges

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Mar 07, 2014 06:47 AM EST | Louise Burton ( l.burton@classicalite.com)

Former Director Stephen Jay Carlton Is Charged with Embezzling from Peninsula Symphony

Stephen Jay Carlton, the former executive director of the Peninsula Symphony, was charged with embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from the San Francisco-area orchestra, prosecutors said on March 5. (Photo : KTVU.com)

Stephen Jay Carlton, the former executive director of the Peninsula Symphony, is currently facing felony charges that he embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars from the California orchestra, prosecutors said yesterday.

Carlton, 45, is being held in Santa Clara County jail in lieu of $350,000 bail.

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He faces up to 18 years in prison if he is convicted, according to the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office. The charges against Carlton include grand theft, embezzlement, forgery, identity theft and tax evasion, all related to funds that disappeared from the Los Altos, Calif. orchestra's accounts.

Carlton was arrested last week after a five-month investigation by Los Altos police, the state Franchise Tax Board and Santa Clara County Prosecutor Judy Lee. The investigation began when orchestra board members discovered last fall that nearly half a million dollars was missing from the orchestra's accounts.

Carlton resigned abruptly in September 2013 after the losses were discovered.

The investigation allegedly showed that Carlton began removing money from the symphony's bank accounts shortly after he became executive director in 2010.

Carlton apparently wrote checks to himself, including duplicate payroll checks, and used some of the money to pay off his credit card debt, Prosecutor Lee said.

She also said that Carlton had taken out an unauthorized $25,000 loan on the symphony's behalf and forged the signatures of two board members on several checks.

All together, Carlton is accused of taking at least $240,000, Lee said.

John Cahners, Carlton's lawyer, declined to comment when contacted by the San Jose Mercury News.

After these shocking losses were revealed, the Peninsula Symphony hired an accounting firm to keep better track of donations in the future.

The 65-year-old symphony is led by a salaried conductor, but the 85 players all volunteer their time. Fortunately, the symphony has been able to raise about $350,000 from board members and musicians to help offset the losses and keep the symphony from shutting down.

But the orchestra still needs funds for its Bridges to Music program, which brings musical instruction to schools that lack music programs in Redwood City, Mountain View, Sunnyvale and East Palo Alto.

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