A judge on Friday approved a temporary restraining order barring a Santa Maria attorney accused of fraud charges from transferring ownership of a home and business in a criminal case connected to a Santa Barbara County probate matter filed in 2018.
The order, which was approved by Superior Court Judge James Herman, accompanied a petition for preliminary injunction filed Thursday and prevents transfers of property in an Orcutt residence and Santa Maria business co-owned by Debbie Morawski, 47, who is facing more than a dozen fraud charges connected to a probate case filed April 9, 2018, according to Deputy District Attorney Casey Nelson.
Morawski on June 28 pleaded not guilty to the charges, which were filed on May 6 and include eight counts of money laundering, three counts of embezzlement and one count each of preparing false evidence and theft from an elder or dependent adult.
Additionally, Morawski denied two enhancements, including that the amount of the embezzlement was in excess of $500,000 and an enhancement that extends the statute of limitations for the case.
Two women and a man from Santa Maria pleaded not guilty last week to fraud-related charges in which they’re accused of using a California home to collect more than $390,000 in state medical benefits over more than a decade while living in Nevada.
The order prevents Morawski from transferring ownership in a newly-acquired residence in Orcutt and her stake in a business that controls The Salty Brigade Restaurant located on Skyway Drive in Santa Maria. The restaurant was shuttered Tuesday with a note taped to the door stating it was closed due to a family emergency.
Because Morawski was charged with a white collar crime, the request was made "to preserve any asset or property" in her control with transfer to a third party for the purposes of paying restitution and fines, if there is a conviction, according to Nelson.
The order also directs Rabobank to immediately disclose account numbers related to Morawski and her husband.
Morawski entered her plea on the same day as a probate case judgment in the amount of $1,437,318.05 was awarded to Susan Wilcox-Grayum and Betsy Tuttle, who accused Morawski of surreptitiously replacing them as the sole trustee in the estate of their mother, Delta L. Campbell, who died Sept. 13, 2017 at the age of 93.
It was ultimately the probate case that led to the criminal charges, according to a declaration by District Attorney's Office investigator Kristin Shamordola.
Adrienne Harbottle, a Santa Barbara County public defender and attorney for Morawski, did not return calls for comment.
The case begins with Campbell's original $2 million family trust, which Morawski drafted and notarized Aug. 17, 2011, according to court records.
Two years later, in August 2013, the daughters accused Morawski of immediately embezzling funds after drafting an amendment that gave her sole control over the trust.
Accounting filings analyzed by a forensic accountant showed Morawski embezzled more than $500,000, including for personal expenses such tuition payments for her boyfriend's son, trips to Yosemite National Park and self-written checks for "attorneys fees" before she resigned as trustee on March 11, 2020 according to court records.
The filings analyzed by the forensic accountant showed that Morawski's accounting information allegedly contained misleading statements and labeled the money she embezzled as "trust transfers" to obscure her actions.
Morawski continued to spend nearly $55,000 from the trust even after the court suspended her authority in a July 29, 2019 order, according to records.
Morawski is scheduled to appear for a hearing at 8:30 a.m. on Aug. 23 in Superior Court of Santa Maria.