A California paralegal and her elementary school teacher roommate are accused of stealing and forging a check for more than $285,000 that they then allegedly used on a cross-country flight on a private jet, multiple hotel rooms and a shopping spree at Tiffany & Co. and Montblanc.
"We see a lot of high dollar fraud cases where the defendant spends money on luxury items like homes and cars," Orange County District Attorney's Office spokeswoman Farrah Emami said. "This case is quite unusual because they rented a private jet to New York City."
Alexa Johzen Polar, 34, a paralegal, and elementary school teacher Robin Antonella Pabello, 33, both of Garden Grove, Calif., pleaded not guilty Monday to charges of stealing a check from a law firm in Newport Beach, Calif., and changing the value to more than $285,000.
"This money wasn't used to pay off debt, it was used for luxury items and personal enjoyment," Emami said.
Polar and Pabello allegedly stole a check for more than $19,500 that was made out to the Newport Beach, Calif., law firm where Polar worked, allegedly removed the payee's name and the amount on the check, and remade the check to more than $285,000 payable to Pabello, prosecutors said.
They allegedly used an ATM to deposit the check into a bank account jointly held by the two roommates and used the money to charter a private jet to New York City, where they rented five rooms in the Marriot Times Square hotel, and went on a shopping spree for luxury items at Tiffany & Co. and Montblanc, according to prosecutors.
Their vacation was cut short and the women had to fly back coach when the issuing bank rejected the check that the receiving bank had processed. It was during that time the banks discovered there had been alleged fraud, which they reported to the Cypress Police Department.
Prosecutors said that Polar and Pabello's dreams for an extravagant lifestyle didn't stop with the jaunt to New York City. The two roommates are also accused of getting $100,000 and $33,000 cashier's checks from fraudulently obtained funds to put a down payment on a $3.7 million house in Murietta, Calif.
Polar and Pabello each have been charged with two felony counts of forgery, one felony count of grand theft, and one felony count of grand theft by embezzlement.
"The bail is set at $285,000 each, and the District Attorney's office has placed a hold on that bail requiring the defendants prove its from a legal and legitimate source," Emami said.
The defense attorneys could not be reached for comment. A pretrial date is set for Jan. 25, 2012. If convicted, the defendants each face a maximum sentence of six years and four months in state prison.