A California woman claims her former bookkeeper wrongfully transferred more than $180,000 from her bank accounts to Leslie Parraguirre, who is married to Nevada Supreme Court Justice Ron Parraguirre, and Leslie Parraguirre's interior design company.
Tonia Antonacci made the allegation in a federal lawsuit she filed in November 2014 against the bookkeeper, Roxanne Sparks; Leslie Parraguirre; and Leslie Parraguirre's design firm, Colours Inc. She filed the complaint as an individual and as trustee of the Toni Antonacci Family Trust.
"Although Parraguirre and Colours have acknowledged that Sparks acted wrongfully and have fully acknowledged that the transfers benefiting them have occurred, they have refused to reimburse Antonacci and the trustee and have and continue to retain all benefits from the said wrongful transfers," the lawsuit alleges.
In a telephone interview Friday, Sparks admitted she made the wrongful transfers.
"I admit that I did it," she told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "I was going to pay the money back. Things just happened."
The Las Vegas woman said she took no money for herself. All of it went to Colours Inc., she said.
"I was trying to save the Parraguirre company and save everyone's jobs," Sparks said.
'Contested commercial dispute'
In late December, Antonacci sought permission to amend her complaint and add Ron Parraguirre as a defendant. Leslie Parraguirre filed an opposition to the motion Wednesday.
Leslie Parraguirre also has filed a counterclaim against Antonacci and a crossclaim against Sparks. In the counterclaim, she accuses Antonacci of negligent misrepresentation and unjust enrichment. She also alleges that Sparks "wrote at least one check" to Antonacci from a Colours corporate account for $5,000, without Colours' authorization.
Antonacci said she deducted the $5,000, and a $2,500 cash deposit that she assumed came from Colours, from the total loss she alleged in her lawsuit.
The Parraguirres declined to be interviewed for this story. In emails to the Review-Journal this week, Ron Parraguirre stressed that he has had no involvement in his wife's business and is not a party to the legal dispute.
On Thursday he wrote, "The plaintiff's efforts notwithstanding, this contested commercial dispute is being managed by Leslie and her attorneys. ... Rest assured that I will vigorously and swiftly respond to any and all misleading allegations if and when it becomes appropriate to do so."
In a separate email Thursday, attorney Mark Jones said his office represents Colours, "a company that has been in good standing" in Nevada for the last 27 years, and its principal, Leslie Parraguirre.
"As this matter is in litigation and involves a business dispute concerning a co-defendant ex-employee, it would be inappropriate for my clients to comment at this time."
Property purchased for $350,000
According to the motion to amend Antonacci's complaint, Sparks disclosed during a July deposition that she had used money she transferred from Antonacci's bank account to pay down a shareholder loan that Leslie Parraguirre had obtained from Colours.
"Additionally, Antonacci has learned that Leslie and Ron Parraguirre purchased a piece of real estate during the time Sparks was making unauthorized transfers, and Antonacci believes that some of her stolen funds were used by the Parraguirres to purchase this property. Significantly, Leslie Parraguirre acknowledged that Antonacci's money went into Colours accounts on May 1, 2014; the next day, May 2, 2014, the Parraguirres closed escrow on real property in Las Vegas."
Antonacci claims the Parraguirres purchased the property at 500 S. Seventh St. from the Nevada Law Foundation for $350,000. Antonacci is seeking to add a claim of fraudulent concealment to her complaint in connection with that purchase.
"Had Antonacci known Leslie and Ron Parraguirre were in escrow on a property, Antonacci would have intervened and requested she be paid back for her stolen monies with money in the escrow account," according to her proposed amended complaint.
In the opposition that Leslie Parraguirre filed Wednesday, she argues that "public records unequivocally demonstrate that the purchase of the property closed on April 30, 2014," before anyone learned of Sparks' wrongdoing. Also, according to the opposition, the property was purchased by RLP Cottage LLC and not the Parraguirres as individuals.
Antonacci, who is attending Santa Clara University Law School, said she has known Leslie Parraguirre since the two attended Valley High School together in the 1970s. She said they became friends around 2004, the year Antonacci moved to California, but the relationship "cooled off" around 2011.
According to Leslie Parraguirre's counterclaim, "Antonacci was a client of Colours for several projects including the interior design of her California home and several of her retail shops. Even after those projects were finished Tonia Antonacci continued to buy merchandise through Colours."
Colours hires bookkeeper
In 2006, according to the counterclaim, Leslie Parraguirre told Antonacci she needed a new bookkeeper, and Antonacci recommended Sparks.
"Based upon the high recommendation of Tonia Antonacci and the representations she made regarding Sparks' qualifications and abilities, Colours hired Sparks to manage its finance department on or about June 19, 2006."
Sparks, who continued to work for Antonacci as an independent contractor, also handled Leslie Parraguirre's personal finances.
While working for Leslie Parraguirre, according to the counterclaim, "Sparks knowingly and maliciously falsified Colours' financial records, forged checks and payroll documents, impersonated Parraguirre to draw funds on Colours' line of credit, misappropriated Parraguirre's personal and household funds, and falsified documents to vendors, shippers, suppliers, and designers in an effort to cover up her wrongdoing."
An investigation by Colours and Leslie Parraguirre revealed that Sparks had been shuffling money between accounts "so that statements she would present to Parraguirre in their meetings would appear to have appropriate account balances," according to the counterclaim. "It appears as though Sparks was also using funds from Antonacci accounts to further aid her in this process and to cover up her wrongdoing."
When Sparks "abruptly left" Colours on April 30, 2014, according to the counterclaim, she had drained its corporate accounts and Parraguirre's personal accounts
"Some accounts were left with less than $100 and every corporate and personal credit card was drawn to its maximum limit as a result of Sparks's unauthorized use and failure to pay the statements as directed by Colours and/or Parraguirre."
The counterclaim accuses Antonacci of failing to oversee her accounts adequately while Sparks was handling them, and failing to exercise "reasonable care or competence" in obtaining information about Sparks' past and communicating that information to Leslie Parraguirre and Colours.
Leslie Parraguirre and her design firm "justifiably relied on the information they received from Tonia Antonacci concerning the qualifications of Sparks as a suitable employee."
Antonacci said Sparks had worked for her company for nearly 20 years with no problems. Antonacci claims she specifically told Leslie Parraguirre that Sparks was not a trained bookkeeper and fully disclosed the woman's strengths and weaknesses.
According to Antonacci's lawsuit, she had no knowledge of any of the wrongful transfers by Sparks before May 1, 2014, when Leslie Paraguirre called Antonacci to tell her that Sparks had cleaned out her personal items from Colours' offices and was not answering her phone calls.
No criminal charges
Antonacci soon discovered the wrongful transfers. The woman said she reported the matter to Los Angeles police, and Leslie Parraguirre reported it to Las Vegas police, who handled the investigation.
No criminal charges have been filed.
Antonacci's lawsuit includes a claim of fraud against Sparks and a claim of unjust enrichment against all the defendants. She is represented by attorney William Crockett.
Leslie Parraguirre's crossclaim against Sparks includes claims of fraud, breach of fiduciary duties and unjust enrichment.
Ron Parraguirre has been on the Nevada Supreme Court since 2004 and is up for re-election this year.
According to the Colours website, the Las Vegas-based boutique design firm was established in 1988 under the leadership of Leslie Parraguirre, a lifelong Nevadan. Its address is listed as 500 S. Seventh St.
Contact reporter Carri Geer Thevenot at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-384-8710. Find her on Twitter: @CarriGeer.