A personal assistant pleaded not guilty Thursday to bilking $900,000 from her famous boss - Aon heir Todd Meister - and may claim the alleged unauthorized purchases were the spoils from their romantic relationship, according to published reports.
Defense lawyer Mark Agnifilo told reporters outside Manhattan Criminal Court that there was a "romantic component" to the relationship between Renata Shamrakova, 27, and Meister, 41, a hedge fund manager who was briefly married to Nicky Hilton in 2004.
Agnifilo said the charges Shamrakova racked up on two American Express cards - often reimbursed by what the prosecution contends were unauthorized withdrawals from Meister's J.P. Morgan bank account - were done with her employer's consent.
Shamrakova, an actress-model who has appeared in two small films, is accused of 42 counts of grand larceny, identity theft, possessing stolen property, and evidence tampering in a 10-month spending spree that ended in January. She faces 15 years in prison on the top charge, and is due back in court April 19.
Prosecutors say she had her name added to Meister's AmEx card and took another one out in his name to charge traveling, clothing, food and loads of jewelry for an online business she co-founded with her boyfriend, Michael Smaye, 25. He faces four counts of evidence tampering.