Trial date set in Jack’s La Jolla embezzlement case

A Feb. 13 trial date was set today for a former bookkeeper accused of stealing more than $5 million from her employer, mother-in-law and others.

Tara Virginia Moore, 40, pleaded not guilty to embezzlement and grand theft charges for allegedly stealing from Jack’s La Jolla, a now-closed high-end restaurant, and cleaning out her mother-in-law’s nearly $2 million retirement nest egg.

As a condition of bail, Judge Jeffrey Fraser ordered Moore to enroll in an electronic monitoring program. 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 faces 12 years behind bars if found guilty of charges in the case involving her former mother-in-law.

The mother of two is also 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.

--City News Service