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Residential care operator accused of embezzling $665K

11:58 PM EST, January 28, 2011

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SAN DIEGO - The operator of three San Diego County residential care facilities accused of embezzling nearly $665,000 from two men's bank accounts shortly before and after their deaths must stand trial on charges of financial elder abuse, forgery and other counts, a judge ruled Friday.

Authorities said Maria Corazon Park -- who is licensed to operate two care centers in Chula Vista and one in El Cajon -- endeared herself to Fred Figueroa and George Vickey, both of whom have since died, in order to get access to their money.

Retired Department of Social Services Investigator Fausto Aguilar testified during a two-day preliminary hearing that the defendant told him in 2008 that Figueroa wanted her to have all his assets after he died.

"She said, `He would have married me. He liked me,''' Aguilar testified.

Aguilar said Park, 54, showed him a power of attorney for Figueroa when he called her in for a meeting while investigating the case.

Aguilar told defense attorney Elliot Kanter that Park said she withdrew money from Figueroa's bank account to pay for funeral costs and final care at her residential care center.

Park allegedly withdrew $83,000 from Figueroa's account in three transactions. When she tried to withdraw another $86,000 from the account, a suspicious Wells Fargo bank employee discovered the alleged fraud and authorities became aware that Figueroa had died in 2008 at the age of 91.

An investigation into other accounts involving Park found that she been added as trustee to accounts belonging to Vickey, who died in 2005 at the age of 89, according to the prosecution.

Authorities allege Park embezzled $579,000 from Vickey's accounts.

The California Department of Social Services temporarily shut down Park's three centers in December and  relocated most residents.

San Diego Superior Court Judge Laura Parsky ordered Park to return to court Feb. 10 for arraignment and to get a trial date.