WOMAN PLEADS TO THEFT COUNTS SEVERAL VICTIMS TO GET RESTITUTION.
LANCASTER - An Antelope Valley woman accused of scamming people out of $34,000 with stories of being a surgeon and the tour manager for country singer Reba McEntire pleaded no contest Friday to grand theft charges.
Michelle Egberts-Greene, 38, has agreed to repay $7,700, and could be ordered at a June court hearing to repay an additional $26,600 she disputes owing, officials said.
``She is accused of theft by false pretenses. She asked people to loan her money. She creates a story. It might be she's a doctor or that she works for Reba McEntire, which leads them to believe that they will get paid back, but in reality she had no means to pay back the money or the intent to pay the money back,'' Deputy District Attorney David Fleck said.
``If there's one victim, it would be difficult to prove there was no intent, but when you have eight or nine victims, it becomes pretty clear what the scam is,'' Fleck said.
Egberts-Greene, who spent the past month in jail and was due to be released Friday after entering her plea, has until February to show a judge that she is making a good-faith effort at getting a job and making restitution to the victims.
If the judge is not convinced, Egberts-Greene could be sentenced to more than four years in prison.
Egberts-Greene, also known as Mikki Nelson, was arrested April 10 after a 77-year-old man from whom she got $2,000 became worried that McEntire's tour bus had not arrived in Lancaster to meet him, as Egberts- Greene had promised.
The man, who quit his job as a community services assistant in the Lancaster sheriff's station after Egberts-Greene told him she got him a job with the country singer, passed along to sheriff's deputies Egberts- Greene's explanation that McEntire's bus was having mechanical troubles.
Several deputies spent hours searching the Acton area before discovering that the story was a lie. Egberts-Greene was arrested that night after she drove to the Lancaster sheriff's station, where deputies determined she was intoxicated.
In another instance, Egberts-Greene allegedly got $1,100 from another person whom she had told she was a physician who operated on children at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, Fleck said.
``The victim said Mrs. Greene told her that she was going to Vegas to operate on some kids, and while she was there, her purse had been stolen and needed money wired to her immediately,'' Fleck said.
The woman wired $1,100 to the defendant. After the woman filed a police report for not being paid back, Egberts-Greene repaid her, Fleck said.
Egberts-Greene also told acquaintances that she worked for country singer Vince Gill, Fleck said.
On Friday, Egberts-Greene pleaded no contest to three counts of grand theft of personal property.
She has agreed to pay restitution to five victims totaling $7,729, but disputes the $26,600 claimed by three other victims. A hearing is scheduled for June 8 to settle on restitution amounts for those three victims, Fleck said.
The defendant also must submit letters of apology to the victims and show that she's making progress at getting a job at the June 8 hearing.
``If she fails to make that good-faith effort or gets into trouble, the judge can sentence her to four years, four months in state prison. If she is really making an effort and showing remorse, then she'll get probation,'' Fleck said.
``She's being given the opportunity to prove to the judge that she deserves probation. The judge has to evaluate whether she's making the effort and determine what amount she is able to pay. If she makes the effort, she will benefit. If the judge feels no effort is being made, he can punish her.''
Karen Maeshiro, (661) 267-5744
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||May 8, 2004|
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