updated 6/28/2004 7:31:21 PM ET 2004-06-28T23:31:21

A paralegal embezzled nearly $600,000 by setting up a bank account under a name that was nearly identical to a New York law firm’s, prosecutors said Monday.

“This woman basically stole the identity of this law firm,” Westchester County District Attorney Jeanine Pirro said.

The law firm was Fish & Neave of Manhattan; the account was set up in the name “Fish Neave.”

Phoebe Nicholson, 39, worked for Honeywell International at the time. The company had done work with Fish & Neave in the past.

Nicholson allegedly forged her boss’ signature on seven phony bills from the firm, then persuaded Honeywell to send the checks to her for delivery instead of mailing them to Fish & Neave.

'Just a matter of time'
“I guess if identity theft involving individuals is our fastest-growing crime it was just a matter of time before we saw identity theft of corporations,” Pirro said.

Nicholson was arrested Friday on a grand larceny charge and was being held on $5 million bail. If convicted, she could face up to 15 years in prison.

Her lawyer did not immediately return a call for comment.

David Gottlieb, a Honeywell spokesman, said Nicholson worked at the company’s office in Syosset, N.Y., for seven months in 2002 and 2003.

He wouldn’t say why she left, but said Honeywell, an aerospace and high-tech manufacturer, was cooperating with the probe.

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