California man sentenced to prison for buying himself Coachella tickets, hot tub and more with tech company credit card

A Riverside man was sentenced to two years in federal prison after pleading guilty to stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and luxury gifts for himself — including international flights, tickets to Coachella and a hot tub — with his tech-support company’s credit card, then attempting to cover up the purchases.

The U.S. Department of Justice said Matthew P. Hernandez carried out the fraud scheme against the company he worked for, San Diego-based tech support firm Networks 2000, for seven years. In that time, they said, he paid himself just over $356,000 in extra paychecks and item purchases.

Hernandez, 46, agreed to plead guilty to four counts of wire fraud in August 2021. A judge sentenced him on Friday. As part of the sentence, he was ordered to pay back the $356,000 he stole.

With his responsibilities over the company’s payroll, accounts payable and bonus dispersal systems, Hernandez would make the checks out to his personal bank accounts but switch the names in the Network 2000’s books to other companies they did business with, according to the plea agreement, thereby “making the fraudulent payments look legitimate.”

“Hernandez had unfettered access to the firm’s books and records and authority to sign checks on the firm’s behalf,” prosecutors wrote in a statement. “In his managerial role, Hernandez stole from the firm hundreds of times.”

Over seven years, that meant Hernandez sent himself checks work more than $35,000. He used wire transfers to pay his own credit card bills worth more than $100,000. And with the company credit card, Hernandez bought more than $138,750 worth of items for himself.

According to the Attorney General’s Office, those purchases included concert tickets to the Coachella music festival, airline tickets to the Dominican Republic, and a hot tub worth $3,500. Prosecutors also said Hernandez bought “a home gym, a knife set, (and) a TAG Heuer racing watch.”

It’s unclear from the indictment how Hernandez was able to cover up the credit card purchases specifically.

The scheme continued until January 2017, when Hernandez overdrew $10,000 from the company’s checking account.

The payment went to a USAA account that Hernandez told the company belonged to one of their clients. In fact, Hernandez owned it.

“The firm extensively reviewed its books and records, identified Hernandez’s fraudulent purchases and transactions, and provided that information to federal law enforcement,” officials said in a statement. “The firm’s efforts to identify Hernandez’s fraudulent conduct took years to complete and was instrumental in moving the investigation and prosecution forward.”

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