BY JASON KOTOWSKI Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
The former co-owner of defunct downtown Bakersfield restaurant Victor Victoria's pleaded guilty Thursday to being an accessory after the fact in connection with wire fraud and credit card fraud at the restaurant.
In return for Roberto Renteria Jr.'s plea, prosecutors have agreed to recommend that he be sentenced to three years' probation, according to documents filed in federal court. He faces a maximum of five years in prison.
Renteria also has agreed to pay restitution to the victims in the amount of $9,895.88, court documents say.
Mary Wenger, secretary to U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner, said Renteria's plea means that he knew a criminal offense had been committed and he hindered law enforcement in making an arrest.
His hindering of law enforcement may have had to do with the fact that the suspect was his wife. Alia Brost pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to commit wire fraud, two counts of wire fraud and two counts of credit card fraud and was sentenced in October of last year to 27 months in prison.
Brost was ordered to pay $113,600 to her victims.
Renteria's attorney, Victor Chavez, could not immediately be reached for comment.
Brost opened Victor Victoria's in August 2009 to rave reviews. But the restaurant didn't last long, closing in July 2010.
Several customers reported that their credit cards had been charged thousands of dollars after visiting the restaurant. Some were charged repeatedly.
Prosecutors said in court documents that after a customer paid his or her dinner bill and left, Brost would again charge the customer's credit or debit card for a much larger, unauthorized amount. The customers didn't know about these transactions until receiving their credit card or banking statement.
Brost would then use the money to pay one of her businesses, either Victor Victoria's or Renteria Catering, the court documents say. Once a customer received the repayment for the unauthorized charge, the merchant processing company for her restaurant then sustained the loss.
The financial institutions and intermediary merchant processing companies lost about $125,000 over an eight-month period, court documents say.