Preliminary hearing held in restaurant embezzlement case


By City News Service

A preliminary hearing was scheduled to begin July 9 for a former bookkeeper accused of stealing more than $3 million from a La Jolla restaurant and embezzling $1.8 million from her mother-in-law in a fraudulent loan scam.

Tara Virginia Moore, 40, faces charges of grand theft, embezzlement, financial elder abuse and forgery for allegedly stealing from her former employer, Jack’s La Jolla, a now-closed high-end restaurant, and cleaning out her mother-in-law’s retirement nest egg.

Moore’s alleged fraud against Jack’s came to light when the restaurant’s owner and local resident, Bill Berkley, hired a forensic accountant to examine the eatery’s financial records dating back to 2003, prosecutor Bill Mitchell said at an earlier hearing.

Moore worked for the Girard Avenue nightclub for about four years, beginning in 2005. The business closed in August 2009 and more than 100 employees lost their jobs, Mitchell said.

Defense attorney Paul Pfingst said Moore was actually loaning some of her own money to help keep Jack’s afloat.

He said there was a signed agreement between Berkley and Moore in which Berkley acknowledged that money paid to Moore in partial repayment of her loans was authorized.

If convicted in that case, she could face up to 20 years in prison, the prosecutor said.

Moore, who is out of custody on bail, faces 12 years behind bars if found guilty of charges in the case involving her mother-in-law, the prosecutor said. A mother of two, she also is under investigation for allegedly illegally collecting spousal support after her third husband died, Mitchell said.

Pfingst said the loans from Moore’s mother-in-law were taken out with Moore’s husband and were approved and being paid back.

At the end of the preliminary hearing, which is expected to last several days, Judge Jeffrey Fraser will determine whether enough evidence was presented for Moore to stand trial.