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O.C. man sentenced to prison for embezzling from travel companies

December 19, 2011 | 11:03 pm

A travel manager has been sentenced to 12 years in state prison for embezzling $825,000 from corporate accounts to shop at Van Cleef & Arpels, finance a first-class Super Bowl trip and even charter himself a jet for a birthday party in Mexico.

Jeremy Kealoha Belisario, 38, formerly of Irvine, pleaded guilty Friday to several counts of theft, fraud and embezzlement involving two companies where he worked, leading one firm to have to lay off workers because of the costs, an Orange County prosecutor said.

In addition to the prison term, an Orange County Superior Court judge ordered Belisario to pay more than $1 million in restitution and a fine of $1.6 million payable to Orange County.

As a manager at TravelCorp USA in Anaheim between June 2006 and July 2007, authorities said, Belisario fraudulently purchased 13 airline reservations for himself and a friend using a debit card from the defendant’s closed personal bank account. He was able to force the transactions through by entering a fake authorization code after the bank initially declined the purchases, according to prosecutors. The bank had closed the account due to numerous bad checks allegedly being written by Belisario.

Belisario was employed as the air manager for a 30-year-old, family-owned corporate travel business from July 2007 to March 2008. According to prosecutors, Belisario embezzled more than $800,000 by making fraudulent personal purchases using his company credit card and clients’ credit card numbers. He used the cards 25 times for personal travel throughout the U.S., Mexico and Europe, and made unauthorized personal charges, including purchases from high-end retailers such as Gucci, Neiman Marcus, Ralph Lauren, Louis Vuitton and Van Cleef & Arpels.

Prosecutors said he purchased Super Bowl XLII tickets in February 2008 and chartered private flights for himself, his friends and his family to Phoenix. He charged more than $69,000 for airline tickets, hotel rooms, limousine rides, Super Bowl tickets and tickets for three privately hosted parties and a tailgate event before the game.

Two weeks later, the defendant flew himself and his friends to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, for his birthday celebration with his friends. He charged more $89,000 to the company to pay for a chartered flight on Virgin Airlines, ground transportation, a private five-bedroom villa at the Four Seasons Punta Mita Resort, and commercial airline tickets for the return flight, according to prosecutors.

Belisario pleaded guilty to grand theft by an employee and fraudulently using an access card, two counts of grand theft, two counts of identity theft, two counts of acquiring access card information without permission, one count of embezzlement by an employee, and admitted to sentencing enhancements for aggravated white-collar crime of more than $500,000 and property damage of more than $150,000.


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-- Richard Winton