Point Loman, a former Jack’s La Lolla bookkeeper, convicted of embezzlement
by NEAL PUTNAM
Aug 13, 2014 | 1566 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
After 3½ days’ deliberations, a jury convicted a Point Loma woman Aug. 4 of embezzling millions from the former owner of the now closed Jack’s La Jolla Restaurant, where she served as the firm’s bookkeeper.

Tara Virginia Moore, 42, had been free on $400,000 bond but was remanded to jail immediately after the jury convicted her of six felony counts, including three counts of grand theft and fraudulent appropriation by a bookkeeper.

Moore did not testify in the seven-week trial before the eight-woman, four-man jury.

Moore’s attorney, Paul Pfingst, argued Moore should remain free on bond, but the judge ordered her jailed immediately. Pfingst, a former district attorney, argued Moore had loaned Jack’s La Jolla money and was paying herself back for the loans.

Sentencing is set for Sept. 2. She faces a sentence ranging from 10 to 20 years, said Deputy District Attorney William Mitchell. He said he was relieved by the verdict because he has been working on the case since Moore’s arrest in September 2011.

Mitchell praised the jury, saying the panel was “a very intelligent jury that was able to understand complex evidence and exhibits and come to the right decision.

“She will be ordered to pay restitution. But good luck on that,” said Mitchell, adding that Moore had declared bankruptcy, but that that it is not final either.

Mitchell repeatedly told jurors in a closing argument to “follow the money [trail].” After Pfingst told jurors the prosecution’s analysis and methodology was too flawed to reach any guilty verdict, Mitchell told jurors in his rebuttal argument to “follow the money and it will tell you the truth of the charges.”

Moore was also found guilty of theft from an elder, Dragica Markovich, who was Moore’s former mother-in-law, in 2005 in what Pfingst described as a loan. Markovich testified via a videotaped deposition made in 2012. The loss was listed as $1.3 million in verdict forms.

She was found guilty of defrauding $1.3 million from William Berkley, the former owner of Jack’s La Jolla, which went out of business in 2009, leaving 120 people out of work. It opened in 2003. Many former employees testified.

Moore was also found guilty of grand theft from another ex-employer, Richard Anderson, whose loss was listed as $200,000. She was also convicted of theft from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs involving $65,000 in benefits she collected from a deceased former husband after she remarried.

The jury also convicted Moore of forgery but deadlocked on a second forgery charge. The jury acquitted Moore of a second grand-theft count involving Veterans Affairs.

Pfingst argued Moore had written receipts from the restaurant owner indicating she was loaning the restaurant money because it developed a cash-flow problem. Mitchell told jurors that restoring money taken in a theft is not a defense.

Pfingst said Jack’s La Jolla closed because it was not making a profit and that profit-loss statements were continually prepared for the owner during its operations.

He told jurors not to consider the closure of the restaurant as relevant to the case.

The jury heard two days of closing arguments and began their discussions on July 30.
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