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McDougal Accused of Embezzlement

September 29, 1998

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (AP) _ Overcoming roadblocks raised by the judge, Susan McDougal’s attorney presented evidence Monday showing contradictions in the testimony of the accuser in the embezzlement case.

Superior Court Judge Leslie Light repeatedly summoned attorney Mark Geragos to the bench, raising questions about documentation that consumed almost the entire day.

Mrs. McDougal is accused of stealing $150,000 from conductor Zubin Mehta and his wife, Nancy, while working for the couple from 1989 to 1992. The case is unrelated to the Whitewater investigation involving Mrs. McDougal.

In a case based almost entirely on bookkeeping papers, the paper trail thickened with confusion. But after hours of wrangling, Geragos succeeded in the final half-hour of questioning in showing that:

_ Mrs. Mehta wrote checks to pay for foreign currency before she and her husband left on European trips. She had said earlier she never bought foreign currency in advance of their arrival in a foreign port.

_ Mrs. Mehta charged large amounts on credit cards from Los Angeles department stores that were paid for by her staff, including Mrs. McDougal, her assistant at the time. She had claimed the checks written for the payments were forgeries.

_ Mrs. Mehta’s staff sometimes borrowed money from her and then reimbursed her. She had testified that practice was not permitted, but Geragos showed, among other documents, a reimbursement check from the Mehtas’ houseman who had borrowed money to pay off his credit card debts.

Mrs. McDougal came to court after a weekend in traction at a hospital. She suffers from advanced scoliosis, according to court records, and wears a back brace in court. Monday’s session recessed early to allow her to go for more therapy.

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