Bookkeeper accused of swindling Iraq soldier

A widowed soldier serving a two-year tour in Iraq was allegedly swindled by a Brisbane bookkeeper who is accused of spending the money on himself.

The alleged ruse began when the widowed soldier needed care for his children and finances while he fought overseas.

The soldier’s wife had died of natural causes about a year before his deployment, and he left his children in the care of his neighbor, Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said.

His Brisbane neighbor recommended that Kenneth McCall, a 65-year-old self-employed bookkeeper, oversee the soldier’s finances, Wagstaffe said.

“The victim’s wife took care of all the finances … he didn’t know what to do with his money and expenses,” Wagstaffe said.

Police in Brisbane said the alleged embezzlement occurred after the soldier left for Iraq in 2006.

McCall was tasked with tracking money coming in and paying bills, Wagstaffe said. The victim gave power of attorney to McCall.

McCall allegedly took liberties with his new client’s accounts. In March 2008, after the soldier returned home, he reported to police that McCall had stolen more than $14,000 from his credit union account and nearly $17,000 on his credit card.

McCall allegedly used some of the money to buy himself items from Best Buy, Petco and CompUSA.

The soldier’s neighbor, who had recommended McCall, also suspected theft, police said. She told a detective that McCall had been spending money frivolously, Wagstaffe said.

“When she asked him about it, the suspect angrily told her to mind her own business,” he said.

McCall’s attorney, David Cohen, said it is the accusing soldier, not his client, who is the cheat.

In a brief interview with The San Francisco Examiner on Monday, Cohen said the complaining witness showed “substantial credibility problems” during a preliminary hearing lasting nine months.

Cohen also accused San Mateo prosecutors of “inflammatory and prejudicial” practices when reporting criminal allegations to the media.

The case was scheduled for jury trial on Jan. 31. However, Cohen hopes evidence against the accuser will have the case against his client dismissed at a hearing scheduled for Dec. 10.

According to Wagstaffe, McCall has said that the soldier had authorized him to spend the money as he deemed appropriate. The soldier said there was no agreement allowing McCall to spend money on himself, he added.

maldax@sfexaminer.com

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