The owner of a Beverly Hills, Calif., spa that caters to A-list celebrities is due in federal court today to face allegations that she fraudulently charged hundreds of thousands of dollars on the credit cards of some of her famous clients.
Gabriela Perez has denied stealing from her clients, although the criminal affidavit has named Jennifer Aniston, Cher, Anne Hathaway and Melanie Griffith among the alleged victims.
Federal prosecutors say actress Liv Tyler was allegedly hit the hardest with $214,000 in fraudulent charges appearing on her credit card in a five-month period in 2009.
"After the clients had legitimate services performed at the salon where they ran credit cards, she kept the credit card information and then ran unauthorized charges on the credit cards," Assistant U.S. Attorney Wesley Hu said.
Aniston said today on "Good Morning America" that she stopped going to Perez' studio about five years ago.
"We had a situation that was not cool," Aniston said. "So I stopped going to her. Paid her the money and left.
"I knew something like this would eventually happen."
But Perez' attorney issued a statement insisting she did nothing wrong.
"This is a legitimate business, and we fully expect that once all the facts come out that she will be exonerated of all the charges, and she is innocent," the statement read.
Perez, who calls herself a "skin artist" and counts President Bill Clinton and Penelope Cruz among her clients, according to her website, faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted.
Her website is laden with celebrity compliments and testimonials; some from the very women she is accused of defrauding.
Cher called her the "Michelangelo of skin care" and Halle Berry thanked Perez "for the magic."
ABC News analyst and former FBI agent Brad Garrett said Perez may have been counting on her clients' unwillingness to press charges.
"Celebrities, I think, historically do not like to get involved in cases," he said of the allegations, "and so maybe she was hedging her bets that she could take the money and then work out an informal arrangement with the person later."
Former Prosecutor Says Celebrities Often Make 'Ideal and Perfect' Victims
Former Los Angeles prosecutor Robin Sax told "Good Morning America" that Perez's alleged celebrity victims may not be called to testify.
Perez, she said, might take a plea deal, "if she can come up with the cash and provide restitution to make the celebrities whole again."
Sax said celebrities are often the "ideal and perfect victim" in crimes such as credit card fraud because they rack up large bills and often have several handlers to deal with their financial and personal information.
"It goes undetected very easily," she said. "They don't necessarily look at their own records as frequently as the average Joe."
Perez was born in Barcelona, Spain, and came to New York to study under an Elizabeth Arden protege, according to her online biography.
Services on the Chez Gabriela Studio website include advanced facials starting at $3,500 and a "diamond powder treatment" going for $3,000.
Her Platinum Celebrity Treatment package starts at $6,000 and goes up, according to the website, using laser, gold diamond and platinum powder and "stem cell serums."