A former Rancho Santa Margarita accounting consultant is scheduled to be arraigned in Santa Ana today for allegedly embezzling $822,000 from a longtime friend's company, using the ill-gotten money to pay off seven credit cards that racked up charges for gasoline, bar tabs, restaurant bills, cable television, a country club membership, auto and health insurance plans, a FasTrak transponder, goods from Lowe's, Joanne, Nordstrom, Radioshack, Home Depot and Roger Dunn Golf, and trips to Texas, Florida, Nevada and Washington that included airfare, food, car rentals, casino visits and other entertainment.
James Harry Fluch, 64, could get up to 114 years and eight months in state prison if convicted of the 156 felony counts against him.
The charges center on computer access and fraud with sentencing enhancements for property loss over $200,000 and aggravated while collar crime over $100,000.
From 1990 to 2011, Fluch was the "finance executive" with Checkpoint Communications, an Irvine company owned by his longtime pal, J. A. "Andy" Shoal. According to the company profile:
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Checkpoint Communications Inc. is a licensed communications wiring contractor specializing in the design and installation of premises wiring systems for voice and data communications. The company's headquarters is located in Southern California with operations throughout the Western United States. Checkpoint Communications was established in 1987 by J.A. "Andy" Shoaff, a data processing executive with more than 30 years of experience, and James Shoaff, a certified voice/data communications network design engineer.
Fluch's role managing Checkpoint's finances had him overseeing bank accounts, payroll and bookkeeping. He is accused of transferring money out of the company's escrow account and into his personal bank account 156 times between Jan. 19, 2006, and Jan. 14, 2010, allegedly hiding the transactions by over-reporting payroll. Fluch is accused of using the money he stole to pay off his seven credit cards, cover cash advances on those cards and to balance out about $13,000 on his wife's American Express card.
A company audit this past January exposed Fluch's transfers. The Irvine Police Department was alerted and an investigation was launched. In the meantime, Fluch had moved to Portland, Oregon. He was arrested at his home there on May 9 and extradited first to Sacramento before continuing on to Orange County.
He was being held at Orange County Jail on $822,000 bail. He was required to prove the money came from legal and legitimate source before posting bond.