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O.C. Couple, Found in Britain, Arrested in Embezzlement

Anne E. Stacey, 46, is accused of taking more than $900,000 while working for a Santa Monica law firm.

September 22, 2000|BOB POOL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

An Orange County woman suspected of stealing nearly $1 million from her employers and fleeing the United States was arrested Thursday in Britain.

Anne E. Stacey, 46, and her husband, Eric A. Harper, 36, were taken into custody in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, where they were hunting for a house to buy, FBI officials in Los Angeles said.

Stacey is accused of embezzling more than $900,000 from the Santa Monica law firm of Bailey & Marzano, where she worked for 15 months before abruptly quitting June 13.

The theft was described as brazen by authorities--who said Stacey even stole the check that the law firm issued to pay bar association dues for staff lawyers.

British officials have scheduled a court hearing for today to discuss extradition of the couple to Los Angeles for prosecution, FBI spokeswoman Laura Bosley said.

An FBI investigation launched after Stacey quit her job and the law firm began tallying its losses led to Thursday's arrests by London and Yorkshire authorities, officials said.

The couple were tracked down to the Harrogate's Cedar Court Hotel, where they were staying with Stacey's 15-year-old son while house-hunting. The boy was placed in the care of British social service workers, officials said.

A spokeswoman for Bailey & Marzano, which has offices at the Santa Monica Airport, declined to discuss Thursday's arrests. Law-firm principals Patrick Bailey and Maryann Marzano did not return phone calls seeking comment.

But a federal indictment issued July 13 described Stacey--who lived with Harper in the South County community of Newport Coast--as having forged checks and used a Bailey & Marzano credit card to defraud the firm.

As part of her duties with the law firm, Stacey handled managerial responsibilities for a Sacramento storage facility called SafeStore Inc. in which Bailey and Marzano were shareholders. According to the indictment, Stacey forged Marzano's name on SafeStore checks and then cashed them.

At one point, Stacey even stole the check the law firm issued to pay its phone bill and made it payable to her instead of the phone company, according to the indictment.

Investigators said Stacey forged Marzano's name on checks used to pay bills that Stacey ran up on a Bailey & Marzano credit card.

Federal prosecutors said charges the couple will face when they are returned to this country include conspiracy and mail fraud.

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