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FOCUS: ORANGE COUNTY COMMUNITY NEWS | COUNTYWIDE

Receptionist Stole Bankruptcy Payments

October 28, 1998|DAVID HALDANE

A receptionist for an Orange County Bankruptcy Court trustee pleaded guilty Tuesday to embezzling more than $160,000 in funds intended for bankruptcy creditors, prosecutors said.

Tricia D. Mendoza, 27, of Norwalk is scheduled for sentencing on the charges early next year. She faces up to 20 years in federal prison and fines of up to $1 million.

"This sends a message," said Angela J. Davis, the assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted the case. "I think it's a warning to the hundreds of people who work in the bankruptcy field. These are people who are in positions of trust; this woman had access to information and abused it."

Prosecutors said Mendoza worked in the Orange office of bankruptcy trustee Amrane Cohen, who administered several thousand bankruptcy cases and was responsible for collecting debt payments from those who filed for bankruptcy, then giving that money to creditors.

Mendoza embezzled the money over a four-month period earlier this year by using the office computer system to redirect payments to a cohort working with her, authorities said.

"When you are in a position of trust," Davis said, "you have an obligation to act honorably and honestly with both information and money."

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