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Ballet instructor, colleague arraigned on grand theft charge

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Posted: Tuesday, October 16, 2001 10:00 pm

Ronna Roberts, a Lodi ballet instructor, was arraigned Tuesday along with her colleague, Alexei Badrak, and their organization, The International Ballet Theatre Institute.

The pair face charges of grand theft, making false or misleading statements and soliciting charitable contributions by false statements. The maximum penalty, if found guilty, is three years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Roberts and Badrak would probably not face the maximum sentence, Deputy District Attorney Franklin Stephenson said.

Defense attorneys did not return phone calls Tuesday afternoon.

Roberts and Badrak, who started The International Ballet Theatre Institute early in 2000 as a nonprofit venture, allegedly pocketed some of the proceeds of the theater's "Albert Play" in May 2000 and "The Nutcracker" in December 2000, prosecutors say.

They accounted for the $9,500 in payments as "professional fees," according to the San Joaquin County District Attorney's Office. Both plays involved Lodi children, and the profits for ticket sales were meant to fund future productions, prosecutors said.

The defendants are also charged with lying about Badrak's qualifications by stating that Badrak was the "assistant director" at the famed Bolshoi Theatre in Russia, when he had allegedly served only as an intern, Stephenson said.

Badrak claims the two titles are synonymous, according to the District Attorney's Office.

However, prosecution witness Shamil Yagudi, who has been involved with the Bolshoi Theatre for more than 20 years and traveled from Russia to testify, said the difference between an intern and an assistant director "is like the difference between night and day," according to a press release from the District Attorney's Office.

This case has gone through numerous twists and turns since the investigation began in May 2000. It was apparently finished last May 10 when Roberts entered into a plea bargain with the District Attorney's Office. However, Roberts failed to comply with the terms of her plea by not paying restitution to the citizens of the county.

On Aug. 8, due to Roberts' failure to honor the agreement, Judge K. Peter Saiers found that Roberts had breached her May agreement and the District Attorney's Office resumed its investigation.

The defendants are not in custody. The trial is scheduled to begin Dec. 10.

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