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Temple Worker Faces Embezzlement Charges

Courts: Former bookkeeper is accused of stealing nearly $100,000. She supposedly used the funds to aid ailing father.

January 26, 2002|GARRETT THEROLF | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A former bookkeeper at Temple Menorah in Redondo Beach was arraigned Friday on charges that she stole nearly $100,000 from the synagogue.

Appearing in Torrance Municipal Court, Doina Stanescu, 51, pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

Prosecutors say that Stanescu embezzled nearly $100,000 from the temple during the 18 months she worked there.

Prosecutors charged her with four counts of forgery--saying she signed at least four checks to herself--and a count each of embezzlement and grand theft, all felonies.

Stanescu, who had worked for the synagogue until a few weeks ago, recently sent a letter to the temple admitting the theft and explaining that she had been sending the money to cover medical expenses for her ailing father in Romania, police said.

On Tuesday, police said, she appeared tearful and contrite when she turned herself in at the Redondo Beach police station.

During her arraignment, Stanescu appeared bewildered and asked her attorney: "What do I do? I have to stay?"

The public defender, John Torelli, noting his client's distress, asked Judge Thomas R. Sokolov to move up a bail hearing originally scheduled for Thursday.

Stanescu is being held on $20,000 bail at Twin Towers jail in Los Angeles. Prosecutors have asked that the bail be raised to $150,000.

Sokolov set a hearing for Monday to consider the request.

Authorities said Stanescu, who was a paid employee and not a member of the temple, had been gambling in hopes of winning money to hide the thefts before anyone noticed.

She appeared before the judge Friday in a wheelchair because of a broken foot, her attorney said.

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