Ferndale police arrested the Humboldt County Fair Association's bookkeeper yesterday morning and booked her into jail on suspicion of having embezzled from the fair and another nonprofit.
Ferndale Police Chief Ron Sligh confirmed that he personally took Nina Tafarella, 47, into custody yesterday morning at the Bear River Casino.
The case spawned out of Eureka, where, according to EPD spokesperson Brittany Powell, police believe Tafarella embezzled approximately $23,000 from a nonprofit that provides youth enrichment programs for children. Powell said the embezzlement is believed to have taken place over the course of about a year beginning in February of 2021 through Tafarella's capacity as a bookkeeper for the nonprofit. EPD had been investigating the case since May, Powell said, and obtained a warrant for Tafarella's arrest Nov. 1.
Sligh said he first became aware of EPD's case late last week when contacted by Humboldt County Fair Association General Manager Rich Silacci, who reached out after learning of the warrant for Tafarella, who'd also been serving as the association's bookkeeper since February of 2021. Silacci reported that Tafarella worked at the association and had access to its finances.
The police chief said he then contacted EPD, which reported it had been unable to locate Tafarella and asked for FPD's assistance. Meanwhile, Sligh said the fair association began an audit of its books, noticed discrepancies and what he believes is evidence Tafarella has been embezzling from it, too.
"They're a victim, too," Sligh said. "It's developing very quickly. It came like a fire hose. ... We can see there's money transferred to an account that it shouldn't be going back over a period of time."
Sligh said he then got a tip yesterday morning that someone had seen Tafarella at the casino and personally went there to arrest her, taking her into custody without incident. At booking, the police chief said he also requested a "bail source enhancement," which would require that if she posts bail, she prove the funds used to do so were obtained legitimately.
According to Humboldt County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Samantha Karges, Tafarella remained in custody as of 9:45 this morning, with bail set at $50,000.
Silacci confirmed that Tafarella was an association employee but did not respond to an email seeking further comment on the case.
Sligh would not say how much money Tafarella stands accused of embezzling from the association, saying it and police are working with a forensic auditor and "still in the process of sorting that out."
Editor's note: This story was updated from a previous version to include Tafarella's custodial status and bail.