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Irvine lawyer Jeanne Rowzee pleads not guilty to credit card fraud

She had been found guilty last year in a separate case of conspiring with insurance salesman James Halstead to bilk investors.

February 10, 2009|Stuart Pfeifer

An Irvine lawyer convicted last year of conspiracy and securities fraud in a scheme that bilked investors out of tens of millions of dollars pleaded not guilty Monday to new charges of credit card fraud and forgery.

Jeanne M. Rowzee is accused of fraudulently applying for credit cards in her children's names and adding herself to the accounts as a second cardholder.

Rowzee, 50, also was accused in a criminal complaint of forging checks drawn on the account of a woman with whom she had a romantic relationship.

She pleaded not guilty to 13 felony charges during a hearing before Orange County Superior Court Commissioner James Odriozola in Newport Beach.

The new charges come as Rowzee awaits sentencing on her federal conviction for conspiring with Santa Ana insurance salesman James R. Halstead, convicted in a separate investment scheme 11 years ago, to defraud investors out of tens of millions of dollars.

Rowzee and Halstead had pledged to invest the money in financial instruments called private investment in public equity, or PIPEs, which they said would return profits as high as 40%, according to U.S. prosecutors and civil lawsuits.

Instead, federal prosecutors allege, Halstead spent the money on a lavish lifestyle that included exotic sports cars and Las Vegas real estate.

Rowzee struck a plea agreement with prosecutors last year and has agreed to cooperate in the government's investigation.

The new charges, filed by the Orange County district attorney's office, allege that Rowzee secured a Chase card online in the name of her son, using a false birth date and listing his income at more than $400,000 a year, said Susan Kang Schroeder, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor's office.

The boy was about 11 at the time, Schroeder said.

Rowzee's lawyer declined to discuss specifics of the new case but said the charges had nothing to do with the allegations involving Halstead.

"These charges are wholly unrelated to her federal case and are based upon domestic disputes between her and her partner of the last 16 years," said Rowzee's lawyer, Dyke Huish. "Sometimes charges between people who were together and are now separated need extra-careful analysis. We're going to take the time to do that."

The latest criminal complaint also accuses Rowzee of fraudulently opening a Citibank credit card account. Prosecutors allege she used her son's name and changed his birth year from 1997 to 1976, then charged $14,000 on the card and failed to repay it.

Prosecutors also allege that the Irvine lawyer forged two personal checks from the bank account of her partner, identified in the complaint as "Patricia E.," draining $55,000 from the woman's account.


Times staff writer Kim Christensen contributed to this report.

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