crimesider

Suburban Mom Bonnie Sweeten Goes Sour; Guilty of Abduction Hoax, Allegedly Stole $700K From Law Office

Bonnie Sweeten (Orange County, Florida Sheriff's Dept.)
PHILADELPHIA (CBS/AP) A suburban mother once at the center of a national abduction hoax that started near Philadephia and ended at Florida's Walt Disney World is in police custody in Pennsylvania and is being held on $1 million bail, reports CBS affiliate KYW.

Prior to the hoax, authorities allege Bonnie Sweeten, a paralegal and office manager, stole more than $700,000 from clients and colleagues at the law office where she worked. She also posed as her boss and stole money from his pension account to spend on clothing, jewelry, tanning salons, and gym payments, prosecutors said.

For this deceit, Sweeten, 39, has been accused in a 23-count indictment of offenses including fraud, money laundering and identity theft between 2005 and 2009.

In addition to this new accusation, Sweeten is serving a nine- to 23-month sentence after she plead guilty to identity theft and filing a false police report, in connection with a hoax last year when she telephoned 911 to say she and her daughter had been kidnapped and stuffed in the trunk of a Cadillac.

However, the reality was that Sweeten and her daughter, Julia Rakoczy, had fled to Disney World in Orlando.

In order to finance the trip, Sweeten had withdrawn $12,000 from several bank accounts and used the name and license of a former co-worker to obtain an airline ticket, authorities told KYW.

At the time of her "getaway," Sweeten was already being investigated for possibly swindling $280,000 from her ex-husband's 92-year-old grandfather, in order to repay a law firm client whose settlement money she had diverted for personal use.

Unfortunately for Sweeten, her plan was not foolproof and she was unable to pay the family members who were demanding repayment, prosecutors said.

One of the people who is most baffled by Bonnie Sweeten's antics is her husband Richard L. "Larry" Sweeten. He told the "Today" show that he "more than anybody" wanted to know what caused his wife to flee and that he was unaware of any money problems.

  • Caroline Black

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