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Comments on Pending Criminal Case

By on August 1, 2019 in News

August 19, 2019:

Many of you have already read the articles that were recently published in the Ojai Valley News and Ventura County Star which reported that the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy (OVLC) was a victim of theft. The Ventura County District Attorney has filed 14 counts of grand theft and forgery against our former office manager and bookkeeper, Ursula Ruiz-Madrid. She has been arrested and is currently in custody awaiting trial.

We were not able to share this with you earlier as we were busy gathering evidence to document the impact on our organization, and could not jeopardize the case. We take this extremely seriously and have been cooperating with the investigators at the Ventura County Sherriff’s Department since May. Ruiz-Madrid’s actions involved a breach of trust against all of us, and against our mission. 

We want to update you now that the charges have been filed. Despite the sophistication of Ruiz-Madrid’s deception, the theft was detected early on. The cumulative theft the OVLC attributes to Ruiz-Madrid’s multiple schemes (including payroll theft, credit card fraud, and theft of cash) totaled approximately $57,000 and occurred between January and May, 2019. The vast majority of this was misuse of OVLC credit cards for unauthorized personal expenses during the last six weeks of her employment. She did not have access to donors’ personal credit card information as our processing system only stores the last four digits of credit card numbers. The OVLC is exploring possible avenues for restitution, through Ruiz-Madrid, our credit card company, and our liability insurance carrier.

Most importantly, we want to reassure you that we are doing everything possible to ensure that this does not happen again. As a fully accredited land trust we already conduct full financial audits annually (available online) and we have an outside accountant who reconciles our accounts monthly. This was an isolated incident, which was immediately discovered upon Ruiz-Madrid’s separation from the OVLC. We are, with the aid of professionals, reviewing our internal mechanisms to make them even tighter. 

We will continue to update you as more information becomes available, but please note that the OVLC may not be able to comment given the ongoing nature of criminal proceedings. Any further questions can be directed to Roger Essick, Board President and Interim Executive Director:, (805) 320-1406.

Roger Essick
Board President and Interim Executive Director

August 1, 2019:

On July 26, 2019, District Attorney Gregory D. Totten announced the filing of a criminal complaint against Ursula Nalley Ruiz-Madrid, who worked as the OVLC bookkeeper from January to May 2019. The complaint alleges 14 felony counts of grand theft and forgery arising from the defendant’s employment with two employers, including the OVLC.

The OVLC management and Board take this incident very seriously. As an accredited land trust, the OVLC financials are audited every year and our past financial records are available online. This was an isolated incident which was immediately discovered upon Ms. Ruiz-Madrid’s separation from the OVLC. The organization immediately presented pertinent information to the sheriff’s department to facilitate this investigation.

The OVLC is continuing to work with local law enforcement and fully supports the prosecution of this matter. The OVLC is unable to comment further at this time due to the ongoing nature of criminal proceedings. Any further questions can be directed to Phil Moncharsh at or at (805) 340-0404.

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