For release on January 11, 2021
Deputy District Attorney
Major Fraud Unit
DA: Bookkeeper Embezzles Over $1 Million, Commits Arson, Falsely Reports Office Invasion
A 73-year-old bookkeeper has been charged with stealing more than $1 million from her employer and then faking a bizarre office invasion and arson to hide her crimes.
Janice Carlstrom of San Jose is alleged to have set fire to papers and her filing cabinet, broken her own nose, and then tied herself up before firefighters and police arrived.
Carlstrom will be arraigned today at 1:30 in Department 24 of the Hall of Justice in San Jose. She is charged with arson, grand theft, workers’ compensation fraud and filing a false police report. If convicted, she faces up to 12 years and four months in prison.
“We thank the Sheriff’s Department for their thorough investigation and for firefighters for responding quickly to this potentially dangerous and destructive arson,” DA Jeff Rosen said. “My Office is committed to hold accountable embezzlers who abuse their positions of trust.”
The defendant, who had worked at a Saratoga real estate company’s office on Big Basin Way for decades, embezzled and stole the money from 2014 through 2019. She would issue checks from her employer to pay off her personal credit cards, her personal home loan accounts and her son’s home loan accounts. When confronted with accounting irregularities, she falsified injuries and set fire to her office suite on the morning of November 4, 2019 in order to conceal her crimes. She told police she had been accosted by unknown invaders, who had attacked her, stripped her to her underclothes and blindfolded her before they set the fire.
Evidence showed that Carlstrom herself had used an accelerant to light the fire.
Deputies became suspicious of the crime when they noted that nothing had been taken from the scene and later documented the embezzlement. Soon after being released from the hospital, the defendant filed for workers’ compensation injury benefits.