A Tiburon woman who embezzled $768,000 from the bestselling novelist Danielle Steel was sentenced to nearly three years in prison Tuesday, federal prosecutors said.

Kristy Watts, also known as Kristy Siegrist, received 33 months for wire fraud and tax evasion during a hearing before U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker in San Francisco.

The judge had previously suggested he would sentence Watts, 48, to five years in prison, said her defense attorney, Anthony Brass. Watts has already repaid Steel some $969,000 in losses and damages, partly by selling her former home in San Rafael.

"We're very pleased with the sentence," Brass said. "Kristy Watts really did want to make this right from the beginning. ... She sold everything she owned."

Watts was ordered to surrender to authorities on June 4 to begin serving her sentence. She still owes the IRS $60,677 stemming from her tax evasion, the U.S. attorney's office said.

Watts worked as an aide to Steel from 1993 to 2008, handling bookkeeping, payroll, travel arrangements and other administrative tasks for the author, a San Francisco resident who has about 600 million copies of her books in print.

Authorities said Watts used her position to steal money from Steel's accounts, sometimes by depositing checks made out to "cash" into her own accounts, sometimes by paying herself more than her salary. Watts also used the rewards points from Steel's credit cards to buy gift cards and airline tickets for herself and her family, prosecutors said.


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Watts did not pay taxes on the extra gains.

Authorities said Watts used the money to finance a "lavish lifestyle," including a $1.3 million home in San Rafael with $1 million in renovations and furnishings.

Watts was charged with one count of wire fraud and four counts of tax evasion. She pleaded guilty as charged in September.

Watts, whom Steel paid $200,000 a year, is married to a San Francisco Police Department officer and has a 6-year-old daughter, the Associated Press reported.


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Contact Gary Klien via e-mail at gklien@marinij.com