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Man embezzles from family, gets prison

Man embezzles from family, gets prison

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A man who stole his siblings’ inheritance was sentenced to two years and eight months in prison earlier this week.

Stephen Beal Berg must also pay his family $297,000 in restitution, a Napa County Superior Court judge ordered.

In April, Berg pleaded no contest to embezzlement and forgery after he used loans to siphon money from his mother’s estate following her death in August 2006.

He faced up to five years and eight months in prison. Attorneys agreed to the nearly three-year sentence.

The family of the defendant, who had earlier appealed to the judge for a prison sentence, declined to speak at the sentencing.

Prior to his mother’s death, Berg moved into his mother’s home on Idlewild Drive in Napa, according to a probation report.

His siblings told investigating officers that he talked his mother into getting a reverse mortgage on her home. He took out $70,000 from the equity loan for himself.

His sister told officers Berg may have opened up as many as seven credit cards in his mother’s name and charged them to their maximum balances. This left the estate liable for the unpaid balances.

After her death, he convinced his siblings to let him take possession of the home, refinance the loan and divide the remaining cash among them, prosecutors have said.

He paid off the existing loan with an adjustable rate mortgage and borrowed an additional $221,000, which he kept instead of dividing among his siblings.

The sentencing was the conclusion of a case that has had several twists.

Berg had originally accepted a plea deal in February in exchange for prosecutors’ promise to not seeking prison time. He also agreed to pay restitution to his siblings.

At his first sentencing, however, two of Berg’s siblings told Judge Mark Boessenecker they would prefer that he serve the time.

Boessenecker threw out the plea agreement and set the case back on track for trial. Berg pleaded no contest to the original charges of grand theft by embezzlement, as well as a new forgery charge.

Deputy Public Defender Joseph Solga said Berg agreed to the sentence. “He didn’t want to put his family through the rigors of a trial,” he said.

Solga declined to comment further on the case. 

Deputy District Attorney Michael Mautner said the sentence is fitting and sends a message to the community that stealing from family members is a crime.

“The cloak of probate and trust is not going to provide cover for the family bully who is really a criminal,” Mautner said. 

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