Amanda Iturraran already was in big trouble – headed to jail for eight months after pleading guilty last year to embezzling from a Stockton fabric and crafts store.
But recently the 23-year-old Stockton woman fell into deeper trouble while asking a judge to delay the date she would report to jail. The judge agreed to let Iturraran finish her first term at University of the Pacific’s prestigious School of Pharmacy.
The problem, authorities say, is that she gave the judge fake documents to prove she was a student. Iturraran – who came to court dressed in a Pacific sweat shirt – is not a student there at all, San Joaquin County Deputy District Attorney Stephen Taylor said.
She now faces a new felony count for presenting false documents as evidence. She could end up in state prison for more than three years if she is found guilty.
“What this case illustrates is just how difficult it is to deal with embezzlers,” Taylor said. “Their behavior is what we like to call crazy.”
The Stockton Police Department has obtained a warrant for Iturraran’s arrest.
The case began with her job at Viking Sewing Gallery, which is inside Jo-Ann’s Fabric & Crafts in north Stockton. Iturraran’s employers accused her of embezzling $49,119 over several months from the nightly bank deposits.
She pleaded guilty to one count of grand theft of personal property, according to court records. But when it came time for San Joaquin County Superior Court Judge Franklin Stephenson to sentence her, Iturraran told the judge that jail would interrupt the start to her rigorous three-year pharmacy studies at Pacific.
As proof, she gave the judge university transcripts and a brief letter of endorsement written by Dr. Gregg LaRue, a supposed Pacific professor. Both are apparent forgeries, officials said. The letter jumped out because it was not written on university letterhead stationary, officials said.
Stockton Police Detective Kenneth Southwick followed up with Pacific officials and found that Pacific does not have a Professor LaRue, and Iturraran is not enrolled there.
Southwick reported that he confronted Iturraran with the false documents. She told him that she had attended Pacific but got kicked out. She now attends Kensington College, based in Santa Anna, which provides online courses, Iturraran told Southwick.
She added that she did not know why she told the judge she attended Pacific and not Kensington, according to court papers.
Taylor said Iturraran’s behavior is all too typical of defendants like those whom he has previously prosecuted for embezzlement.
“She was headed into custody and she didn’t like it,” Taylor said. “What do you expect when you take all this money – traffic school?”
Scott Smith/Stockton Record