SARATOGA (CBS SF) — An employee of a Saratoga real estate investment firm has been arrested and accused in a bizarre plot to embezzle money from her employer, faking an assault and starting a fire to cover her tracks.
The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office said on November 4, 2019, firefighters responded to a fire at the offices of Pollack Investments at 14500 Big Basin Way in Saratoga, and found 74-year-old San Jose resident Janice Carlstrom bound and gagged inside the office.
Carlstrom claimed she had been assaulted and it was determined she had suffered a broken nose and a laceration to the back of her head, which required being treated at a hospital. She told investigators she did not know who assaulted her or started the fire.
A lengthy investigation by the sheriff’s office ultimately uncovered fraudulent activity by Carlstrom, who had stolen more than $44,000 from her employer. Further investigation showed other fraudulent activity involving Ms. Carlstrom totaling more than $580,000 involving multiple financial institutions, the sheriff’s office said.
In addition, investigators identified Carlstrom’s thumbprint on a critical piece of arson evidence at the crime scene, and a crime lab provided forensic confirmation of an accelerant used to burn items at the office, the sheriff’s office said.
On Wednesday, detectives interviewed Carlstrom, who admitted to making fraudulent payments and starting the fire in an attempt to conceal evidence and confessed she made up the story of being assaulted by an unknown suspect, according to the sheriff’s office.
Carlstrom was booked into the Santa Clara County Jail on charges of arson, embezzlement and forgery. The sheriff’s office said the investigation was ongoing.