Santa Barbara private investigator Craig Case faces trial on charges of stealing nearly $700,000 from an elderly Montecito woman.
Superior Court Judge Von Deroian held Case, 75, and Nancy Lee Elizabeth Coglizer, 55, to answer multiple felony charges, including conspiracy to commit theft from an elder and conspiracy to commit grand theft.
Case also faces 44 counts of money laundering and charges of failing to file income tax returns for several years.
Coglizer was a bookkeeper and then a trustee with power of attorney for Constance McCormick Fearing, a Montecito woman who was in her 90s at the time of the alleged embezzlement.
Over 2½ years, Coglizer wrote 104 checks to Case from Fearing’s bank account, which he cashed, prosecutors allege.
Fearing died in 2022.
Deroian held them both to answer the criminal charges in September after a preliminary hearing.
Case remains in the custody of the Santa Barbara County Jail in lieu of $730,000 bail, while Coglizer is out of custody.
Coglizer’s defense attorney, Sanford Horowitz, petitioned the court for mental health diversion in this case, which the prosecution opposed. That petition is scheduled to be heard in December.
The Embezzlement Case
This is a typical case of embezzlement by a fiduciary in that Coglizer held power of attorney when she embezzled, the District Attorney’s Office wrote in a preliminary hearing brief.
“What is atypical about this case, however, is that Coglizer did not benefit from a single dollar of the $690,000 that she embezzled from Ms. Fearing,” Senior Deputy District Attorney Brian Cota wrote.
“This is because her co-defendant, Craig Case, manipulated and took advantage of Coglizer’s mental health issues, due to the loss of her mother, and her resulting alcohol dependency, and convinced and conspired with Coglizer to breach her fiduciary duty to Ms. Fearing for his benefit and his benefit alone.”
The case alleges that Coglizer wrote the checks from Fearing’s bank account from October 2018 to April 2021. Both people were aware what they were doing was illegal, prosecutors said.
The bank account was controlled by Fearing’s living trust and had average monthly deposits of $80,000 to $100,000 to pay for Fearing’s expenses, including health care and her large Montecito estate, according to prosecutors.
Case asked for multiple checks in smaller amounts, and later tried to hide the theft by creating a fake backdated invoice for services he never provided, Cota wrote in the preliminary hearing brief.
Some of the checks had “security” or “gate and consulting” in the memo lines.
Case owns Case Detective Agency, which offers private investigations and private security. His job means he would have been familiar with how people try to hide theft and embezzlement, prosecutors allege.
Case also would occasionally text Coglizer asking if Fearing had any “extra money,” according to court documents.
Coglizer claimed Case said he would repay the money, but the checks were not categorized as loans at the time, there was no promissory note, and Case never repaid a dollar of the money, the District Attorney’s Office alleges.
Coglizer said she asked Case to repay the money, but he stopped returning text messages and calls.
In 2021, David Mokros, then a co-trustee for Fearing’s trust, started scrutinizing bank records, and that prompted a District Attorney’s Office investigation and civil case over the alleged theft.
In mid-2021, Coglizer was removed as trustee and power of attorney.
She texted Case that she lost her job, according to court documents, and wrote: “Your ‘short term loans’ should have NEVER gotten to this point,” she wrote.
Coglizer filed a cross-complaint in the civil lawsuit, and that case is on hold pending the criminal investigation, according to Superior Court records.