A preliminary hearing is set for Feb. 6 in Orange County Superior Court in a case of felony grand theft involving a Laguna Beach marketing company and its bookkeeper-office manager, who prosecutors allege embezzled $265,000.
Nhora Johanna Tellez, 38, of Costa Mesa, denied the four grand theft allegations in court on Jan. 25, a day after her arrest by Laguna Beach police. Her attorney, Michael Guisti, reached Friday, Feb. 2, declined to discuss the case. “It’s a huge burden for the D.A.,” said Guisti, declining further comment.
Prosecutors allege Tellez spent the embezzled funds on personal expenses that included veterinarian visits, entertainment expenses, living expenses, and vacations that involved the purchase of airline tickets.
Police arrested Tellez after a two-year investigation instigated Jan. 22, 2016, by the owner of Laguna Coast Corporation, which markets trade show and publishing research, Sgt. Jim Cota said in a statement released Thursday, Feb. 1.
At the time, the business owner alleged the company bookkeeper had defrauded him of $80,000. The investigation revealed larger losses of $265,000. Ultimately, investigators alleged a scheme where Tellez had gained the trust of the owner, who allowed her control of his accounts. Investigators suspect Tellez changed the login information for all of the victim’s investments and credit card accounts and rerouted notifications to an email address she held.
Police said they obtained images of Tellez at ATM machines throughout the county completing fraudulent transactions.
The four counts listed in court records occurred in 2012 and 2013.