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Overseer of estate is accused of theft

December 28, 2006|David Haldane | Times Staff Writer

A court-appointed state conservator has been arrested on charges of embezzling more than $900,000 from the estate of a 92-year-old Orange County woman, authorities said Wednesday.

Jennifer Ann Wenger, 53, of San Juan Capistrano was scheduled to be arraigned today at the Central Justice Center in Santa Ana for allegedly stealing funds from the estate of Goldie Carlova, who was in her care. Carlova died in April 2004.

If convicted, Wenger could face up to 56 years in prison, said Susan Kang Schroeder, a spokeswoman for the Orange County district attorney's office.

"This is a case about being in a position of trust," Schroeder said.

Wenger will not be allowed to post the $1-million bail without proving it came from a legitimate source, Schroeder said.

The spokeswoman said that, between Oct. 12, 2004, and Feb. 28, 2006, Wenger wrote 65 checks to herself from Carlova's estate, which she administered.

Schroeder said Wenger also deposited into her personal account eight annuity checks made out to Carlova that were mistakenly issued after her death.

Wenger is accused of depositing most of the funds into online accounts in foreign countries and using the money for Internet gambling, according to a news release.

She is also believed to have used $73,700 from Carlova's estate to reimburse a San Bernardino County estate of which she was conservator and from which money was missing.

Wenger's alleged crimes, Schroeder said, came to light when someone connected to Carlova's trust alerted law enforcement.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in September signed a comprehensive package of bills aimed at curbing the abuse of elderly and disabled adults following calls to overhaul California's troubled conservatorship system.

The new laws strengthen oversight of professional conservators through a system of state licensure and require greater supervision of their work by the judges who appoint them.

david.haldane@latimes.com

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