Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Women accused of forging check for private jet, N.Y. shopping spree
They may have wanted Breakfast at Tiffany's, but Orange County prosecutors say a Garden Grove paralegal and Cypress elementary school teacher are in big trouble after a spending spree in New York City.
Orange County prosecutors have charged Alexa Johzen Polar, 34, and Robin Antonella Pabello, 33, both of Garden Grove, with multiple felonies after they allegedly used a forged $285,000 check from a law firm to charter a private jet. They purchased five hotel rooms and went on shopping forays at Tiffany, authorities said.
The roommates also used fraudulently obtained cashiers checks in the amounts of $100,000 and $33,000 to put a deposit on an 11,000-square-foot house in Murrieta worth about $3.7 million.
Cypress Police Det. Greg Faessel said investigators believe the women wanted to rent the Murrieta mansion during the escrow process and "live like kings during the holidays."
"These women were already deep in debt and wanted to enjoy life without any cares for a while," Faessel said.
Both women, who are expected to plead not guilty when arraigned Monday afternoon in Westminster, face two felony counts of forgery, one felony count of grand theft and one felony count of grand theft by embezzlement.
If convicted, they each face a maximum sentence of six years and four months in state prison. Prosecutors will ask that the roommates each be held on $285,000 bail and prove that the money came from a legal source if they post bond.
According to prosecutors, Polar worked as a paralegal for a Newport Beach law firm and lived with Pabello, a second-grade teacher at St. Irenaeus Parish School.
The school's website says she has been a teacher there since 2004.
"I'm not just a teacher here at St. I's but a student as well," she states on the website. "A student of life lessons and the daily lessons that God sends to me. Those lessons that I learn I pass to my students in hopes that they continue passing it on to others."
The defendants are accused of, sometime between Sept. 21 and Nov. 16, stealing a check for more than $19,500 made out to a law firm where Polar worked and then "removing the payee's name and the amount of the check and re-marking the check with Pabello's name," prosecutors said in a statement. The amount of the check was then changed to $285,000.
Faessel said the two deposited the fraudulent check Nov. 16 via ATM into a joint bank account, then spent $30,000 to charter a private jet for a one-way flight with several friends to New York City.
Once there, they allegedly rented five rooms at a Marriott hotel overlooking Times Square and bought unspecified items from Tiffany and Montblanc that investigators believe were intended as holiday gifts for friends.
The Cypress Police Department began investigating after the bank that issued the original check rejected it and informed the bank that held the women's joint account. Their account was frozen during the time the women were in New York, so they had to fly coach back to Los Angeles, Faessel said.