A woman suspected of embezzlement after millions of dollars went missing from a La Jolla restaurant and nightclub appeared for trial Thursday, and a prosecutor told a jury the woman also took military benefits to which she wasn’t entitled.

Tara Virginia Moore “took advantage of the trust that was placed in her,” Deputy District Attorney Bill Mitchell said in his opening statement.

Mitchell said Moore would write checks to herself and deposit them in an investment company business account that was supposed to be closed, then transfer the money into her personal account.

Moore, 42, who faces grand theft, embezzlement, forgery and elder abuse charges, presented herself as independently wealthy.

“Lying, cheating and stealing became a way of life for the defendant,” Mitchell told the jury.

Detectives in 2011 seized more than $400,000 worth of antiques, furniture, paintings, exotic Italian silk curtains from Moore’s home. Police allege the items were bought with embezzled funds.

Moore, who filed for bankruptcy in 2009, was identified as a suspect during a yearlong investigation into monetary losses at Jack’s La Jolla, a high-end restaurant-bar that closed five years ago. She worked there as a bookkeeper.

The alleged fraud came to light when the owner of Jack’s hired a forensic accountant to examine the restaurant’s financial records dating back to 2003, Mitchell said.

Defense attorney Paul Pfingst has said that Moore actually loaned some of her own money to Jack’s to keep the business afloat, but Mitchell said that, too, was a ruse.

Mitchell said Moore lied to her former mother-in-law about a possible investment in a Rancho Bernardo property and stole more than $500,000 from the older woman, which led to the elder abuse charges

When one of Moore’s husbands, a Naval aviator, died, she also failed to disclose that she had remarried and continued to collect military benefits, according to the prosecutor.

Moore’s trial is expected to last at least six weeks.

– City News Service

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