SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — Janice Carlstrom, a 73-year-old bookkeeper has been charged with stealing more than $1 million from her employer, and then allegedly attempting to cover-up the crime by setting fire to her office and staging a fake assault.
The Santa Clara District Attorney’s Office said Carlstrom will be arraigned on arson, grand theft, workers’ compensation fraud and filing a false police report charges on Monday afternoon. If she is convicted, Carlstrom would face up to 12 years and four months in prison.
“We thank the Sheriff’s Department for their thorough investigation and for firefighters for responding quickly to this potentially dangerous and destructive arson,” District Attorney Jeff Rosen said. “My Office is committed to hold accountable embezzlers who abuse their positions of trust.”
Carlstrom, who lives in San Jose, is alleged to have set fire to papers and her filing cabinet, broken her own nose, and then tied herself up before firefighters and police arrived.
The defendant, who had worked at a Saratoga real estate company’s office on Big Basin Way for decades, allegedly embezzled and stole the money from 2014 through 2019.
Investigator said she would issue checks from her employer to pay off her personal credit cards, her personal home loan accounts and her son’s home loan accounts. When confronted with accounting irregularities, she falsified injuries and set fire to her office suite on the morning of November 4, 2019 in order to conceal her crimes.
She told police she had been accosted by unknown invaders, who had attacked her, stripped her to her underclothes and blindfolded her before they set the fire.
Evidence showed that Carlstrom herself had used an accelerant to light the fire.
Deputies became suspicious of the crime when they noted that nothing had been taken from the scene and later documented the embezzlement. Soon after being released from the hospital, the victim filed for workers’ compensation injury benefits.