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Couple Sentenced for Stealing From Widow

September 13, 2000

CHATSWORTH — A local couple was sentenced Tuesday and ordered to pay restitution for stealing more than $300,000 from a Beverly Hills family, authorities said.

Isabel Bernstein, 57, was sentenced to three years in prison and her husband, Paul Bernstein, 58, received eight years' probation, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Karol Carleton.

Isabel Bernstein was the longtime bookkeeper of producer Harry Popkin and his wife, Frances. She began stealing from the family by making checks out to her husband after Harry Popkin died in 1991 and while his widow needed her help, Carleton said. Frances Popkin died in 1997.

"It's taking advantage of an elderly victim," Carleton said.

In April, the Bernsteins pleaded no contest to grand theft and tax code charges, Carleton said. Isabel Bernstein also pleaded no contest to one count of unemployment insurance fraud.

The couple was ordered by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Maureen Duffy-Lewis to pay $100,000 to the Popkins' daughter, Betty Harrison, and $288,000 to several state agencies.

Before the criminal case began, there was a civil judgment against the Bernsteins in which they had to pay more than $300,000 in damages to the victim family, Carleton said.

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