San Joaquin County
District Attorney's Office
OFFICE OF THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY 222 E. Weber Ave., Room 202, Stockton, CA
P. O. Box 990, Stockton, CA 95201
T (209) 468-2400 | F (209) 465-0371
TORI VERBER SALAZAR District Attorney Scott A. Fichtner Assistant District Attorney Kristine M. Reed Assistant District Attorney James Bojko Chief Investigator
News from the Office of District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar
For Immediate Release
January 31, 2020
CONTACT: Angela Hayes, Deputy District Attorney
T: (209) 468-2400 | E: Angela.Hayes@sjcda.org

Career Con-Artist Sent to State Prison for Six Years

Stockton – Today, District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar announced that Michelle Zapata, age 44, was sentenced on January 31, 2020, to six years in state prison by the Honorable Ronald Northup for one count of Penal Code §459 Residential Burglary, First Degree, and eight counts of Penal Code §487(a) Grand Theft.

“This woman took advantage of family and friends to the tune of over $100,000,” said District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar. “This office will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law those who commit crime for their own financial gain.”

According to court records, Ms. Zapata joined a business group called Ambit Energy. Many of her victims she met through this organization. She had several scams which she would use on her unsuspecting prey. In one, she would claim she was awarded $212,500 in a lawsuit, but in order to collect she had to first pay an IRS tax lien. The purported IRS lien amount would vary between $5,000 and $7,000. She would provide proof of the judgment and lien via a letter, e-mail, or text from her lawyer and then would promise to repay the victims as soon as the funds were released. Some people went so far as to apply for loans in order to help her (one victim took a loan out at 36% interest). The letter from the attorney was a forgery and there was no such settlement.

She also claimed to be suffering from a malady for which she needed special treatment out of the state. Her friends and family supported her in this scheme as well. None of the victims has ever been reimbursed. Ms. Zapata has previously been to prison for a white collar crime.

Deputy District Attorney Todd Turner who prosecutes major white collar crimes charged her with burglary based on the fact that she entered these people’s homes with the intent to defraud them out of large sums of money. This allowed him to convict her of a serious felony, otherwise known as a “strike,” and ask for a state prison sentence.