Two roommates pleaded not guilty today to charges of forging a nearly $300,000 check, part of which was allegedly used to purchase a $3.7-million home in Murrieta.
Alexa Johzen Polar, 34, and Robin Antonella Pabello, 33, both of Garden Grove, were each charged with two felony counts of forgery, one felony count of grand theft, and one felony count of grand theft by embezzlement, the Orange County District Attorney's Office said in a news release.
Polar and Pabello allegedly stole a check from a Newport Beach law firm and changed the value to more than $285,000, which they are accused of spending on a private jet to New York, multiple hotel rooms, a shopping spree at Tiffany & Co. and Montblanc for them and their friends, and the purchase a $3.7-million home in Murrieta, according to the D.A. statement.
They face a sentencing enhancement for white collar crime of more than $100,000. If convicted, the defendants each face a maximum sentence of six years and four months in state prison, said Farrah Emami, spokesperson for the D.A.'s office.
They were both arraigned today at the West Justice Center in Westminster.
"The People requested Polar and Pabello be held on $285,000 bail each and the defendants must prove the money is from a legal and legitimate source before posting bail," Emami said in the news release.
"At the time of the crime, Polar and Pabello were friends who lived together in Garden Grove," Emami said. "Polar worked as a paralegal for a Newport Beach law firm."
Between Sept. 21 and Nov. 16, 2011, Polar and Pabello are accused of stealing a check for more than $19,500 made payable to law firm where Polar was employed, Emami said.
The defendants are accused of removing the payee’s name and the amount of the check, re-marking the check with Pabello’s name, then changing the check amount to more than $285,000, Emami said.
On Nov. 16, the defendants allegedly used an ATM to deposit the check into a bank account jointly held by Pabello and Polar.
They then allegedly used the money to charter a private jet to fly themselves and several friends to New York City, rent five rooms at a hotel in Times Square and purchase items from Tiffany & Co. and Montblanc, Emami said.
Polar and Pabello were also accused of obtaining cashier checks in the amounts of $100,000 and $33,000 from the fraudulently-obtained funds to lease and/or purchase a $3.7 million, 11,000-square-foot house in Murrieta, Emami said.
"The theft was discovered after the issuing bank rejected the check that the receiving bank had processed," Emami said. "The Cypress Police Department investigated this case."
Orange County Deputy District Attorney Megan Wagner of the Major Fraud Unit is prosecuting this case.
Polar and Pabello were due in court Jan. 25, Emami said.
**Updated at 5:30 p.m. to reflect that defendants pleaded not guilty to all charges today. Bail was set at $225,000 each.