Accountant Gets 4 Years for Stealing $500,000 From Trust Fund to Pay for Doll Collection

A Laguna Hills accountant hired to manage a brother and sister's trust fund has been sentenced to four years in state prison for stealing more than a half million dollars to pay for a doll collection. 

Margot Jean Strawn, 58, had pleaded guilty to two felony counts of grand theft with sentencing enhancements for aggravated white collar crime over $500,000 and property damage over $150,000 and $50,000. Besides the prison time, Strawn was ordered to pay more than $500,000 in restitution to the victims, $95,000 of which she handed over at her sentencing Monday.

The Orange County District Attorney's office release on the case follows after the jump . . .

November 17, 2009


SANTA ANA – A former Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and trustee was sentenced yesterday for stealing over $500,000 from the trust funds of a brother and sister and spending the stolen money on a doll collection. Margot Jean Strawn, 58, Laguna Hills, pleaded guilty to the court to two felony counts of grand theft with sentencing enhancements for aggravated white collar crime over $500,000 and property damage over $150,000 and $50,000. Strawn was sentenced to four years in state prison and was ordered to pay over $500,000 in restitution to the victims. The defendant paid $95,000 in restitution at her sentencing yesterday.

In 1995, Strawn, a CPA, was hired by the Pellissier family as the Successor Trustee to manage the trust funds of sister and brother Michelle and Edmund Pellissier. The defendant was responsible for managing the trust funds by providing accounting services, filing tax returns, and distributing the money to the accounts. Between May 31, 2001, and Jan. 19, 2007, Strawn stole over $500,000 from both trusts by writing herself checks from the accounts and depositing them into her personal bank account. The defendant failed to file 2002, 2003, and 2004 tax returns for Michelle Pellissier's trust. On March 1, 2001, Strawn's CPA license expired. She continued performing accounting services for the victims. The defendant's license was revoked on March 25, 2005, and she never informed the victims of her status.

In early March 2007, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) notified Michelle Pellissier of a trust tax error. The defendant assured the victim that she would handle the matter. On April 29, 2007, Michelle Pellissier contacted the IRS and discovered no tax returns for the trust had been filed from 2001 to 2004. On May 29, 2007, Michelle Pellissier checked the balance of one account linked to the trust totaling .95 cents, which should have been over $100,000. Michelle informed her brother after checking all of her accounts linked to the trust and found that the defendant had stolen over $400,000. Edmund Pellissier checked his trust accounts and found that the defendant had stolen over $100,000. Michelle and Edmund Pellissier immediately reported the theft to the Orange County Sheriff's Department, who investigated this case.  

Anyone with additional information or who believes they have been a victim is encouraged to contact Supervising District Attorney Investigator Ron Frazier at (714)347-8691. Deputy District Attorney Jan Christie of the Major Fraud Unit prosecuted this case. 

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