A former bookkeeper accused of stealing more than $5 million from her employer and others — including $1.9 million from her mother-in-law — must stand trial on grand theft, embezzlement and other charges, a judge ruled today.
Tara Virginia Moore, 40, faces charges for allegedly stealing from her former employer, Jack's La Jolla, a now-closed high-end restaurant, and cleaning out her mother-in-law's retirement nest egg.
Moore's alleged $3 million fraud against Jack's came to light when the restaurant's owner, Bill Berkley, hired a forensic accountant to examine the eatery's financial records dating back to 2003, according to prosecutor Bill Mitchell.
Moore worked for the Girard Avenue restaurant for about four years, beginning in 2005. The business closed in August 2009 and more than 100 employees lost their jobs, Mitchell said.
Defense attorney Paul Pfingst maintains that Moore was actually loaning some of her own money to help keep Jack's afloat. He said there was a signed agreement between Berkley and Moore in which Berkley acknowledged that money paid to Moore in partial repayment of her loans was authorized. If convicted in that case, she could face up to 20 years in prison.
Moore, who is out of custody on bail, faces 12 years behind bars if found guilty of charges in the case involving her mother-in-law, Mitchell. The mother of two also is under investigation for allegedly illegally collecting spousal support after her third husband died, Mitchell said.
Pfingst said the loans from Moore's mother-in-law were taken out with Moore's husband and were approved and being paid back.
After a weeklong preliminary hearing, Judge Jeffrey Fraser ruled that enough evidence was presented for Moore to stand trial.
The judge noted Moore is accused of victimizing five victims by five different methods of theft, in what he called a "complex, criminal enterprise."
Fraser did not raise bail as Mitchell asked, but ordered Moore not to leave San Diego County. The judge said he might order the defendant to wear an electronic ankle bracelet.
Moore will be back in court Aug. 6 for arraignment.