It's a crime story straight out of a Coen Brothers' script. Authorities in Saratoga this week arrested a 74-year-old San Jose woman in a bizarre cover-up designed to throw them off the trail of an embezzlement scheme in which her employer was the victim.
Janice Carlstrom was found bound and gagged by firefighters responding to a burning building in Saratoga on November 4, 2019, almost exactly one year ago. As KPIX reports, she claimed she had been assaulted by an unknown assailant who had also started the fire, which occurred at Pollack Investments at 14500 Big Basin Way in Saratoga. Firefighters at the scene found Carlstrom with her eyes and mouth duct-taped, and she had a broken nose and lacerations on the back of her head.
Carlstrom claimed she was ambushed from behind and knocked unconscious, as the Mercury News reports, and that she awoke to the sound of sprinklers and the fire alarm.
According to LinkedIn, Carlstrom served as the office manager for the real estate investment firm.
The Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office has been investigating the case over the last year, and they uncovered evidence that Carlstrom had embezzled over $580,000 from Pollack Investments, via her role as bookkeeper. She had allegedly been withdrawing funds from company accounts and depositing them in her own account in order to pay off personal debts.
Sheriff's investigators said they never found evidence of any accomplice, and they believe that Carlstrom's wounds were self-inflicted. They also found a thumbprint that matched Carlstrom's on an unspecified piece of arson evidence, and they found accelerant at the scene.
"She voluntarily provided a statement, was brought in for an interview, and she admitted to fabricating the story," said Sheriff's Deputy Russell Davis, to the Mercury News.
Investigators believe that the arson was an attempt to destroy incriminating evidence of her financial crimes.
On Thursday, Carlstrom was arrested and booked on charges of arson, embezzlement, and forgery. She's now in Santa Clara County Jail, per KPIX, and the investigation is ongoing.
Photo via Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office