Jury Finds Grown-Up Mouseketeer Guilty of Shoplifting


It was not the sort of TV appearance that might excite a former apple-cheeked Mouseketeer.

Yet there was the Mickey Mouse Club’s own Darlene Faye Gillespie on a 1997 Macy’s surveillance video being shown in a Ventura courtroom at her trial for helping her fiance shoplift four women’s shirts.

The charge: petty theft.

The verdict: guilty.

And the sentence--handed down Tuesday--three days in jail and three years’ probation.

Gillespie, a 56-year-old Woodland Hills resident and retired surgical nurse, vehemently denies the charges and the verdict, her attorney, Victor Furio, said Wednesday. She has already filed preliminary papers to appeal, he said.

“Her defense was simple,” Furio said. “She didn’t do anything wrong.”

Gillespie was jailed for three days after the Jan. 26 arrest, held on $50,000 bail that she could not pay, and denied her medication, he said. “She was treated very poorly indeed.”


Gillespie--one of the original Mouseketeers who appeared on the Mickey Mouse Club show from 1955 until 1959 and later sued Walt Disney Productions because her performing career never took off--could not be reached Wednesday for comment.

Furio said that Gillespie and fiance Jerry J. Fraschilla, of Camarillo, walked into the Macy’s at the Buenaventura Mall on Jan. 26 with merchandise they hoped to exchange: four shirts she had already purchased and a Cuisinart food processor they had received as a gift.

When they walked out, Ventura police arrested them for shoplifting.

The store receipts disappeared before the case came to court, and the couple were wrongly tried and convicted of petty theft, Furio said.

Fraschilla, 60, is also “100 percent not guilty,” said his attorney, Stefan Eric Sacks.

But prosecutors alleged that store videos tell a different tale.

And after deliberating for two days, a Ventura County jury agreed and returned its verdict of guilty.

Gillespie can be seen taking at least two of the shirts off the rack and handing them to Fraschilla, who then slips them into a shopping bag, said Ventura County Deputy Dist. Atty. Antonio Aguilar.

“You see Mr. Fraschilla [on the video] putting the empty hangers back on the rack, and he does it right in front of her,” Aguilar said. “You can see them talking and gesturing.”


Aguilar says the case began Jan. 23 when Gillespie entered the Ventura Macy’s housewares department carrying an opened Cuisinart box.

She told a clerk the machine was a gift, but that she wanted to return it for a refund, witnesses testified.

The clerk testified that the box felt light, and that she then discovered the motor was missing and refused to give a refund because the set was incomplete and Gillespie had no receipt.

Gillespie walked off to another part of the store, and the clerk alerted a security officer, who followed her with surveillance cameras until Gillespie met up with Fraschilla and left, Aguilar said.

Three days later, the guard spotted the couple again on security monitors, and began tracking them with the camera network.

Fraschilla appears on the video standing at the unmanned housewares counter with the opened Cuisinart box, Aguilar said.


Fraschilla then leaves with the box and appears on the next camera with an empty plastic Macy’s bag, which he shakes open as he moves through the store.

By the time the next camera picks him up, Fraschilla is carrying a sealed Cuisinart box in the bag, Aguilar said. Fraschilla meets up with Gillespie in the store’s juniors department, where the couple start sorting through and discussing women’s shirts.

She hands several of the shirts to him, then he takes them off their hangers and walks behind a pillar, where the camera can see only the bottom of the bag as he stuffs something inside it, Aguilar said.

Fraschilla then walks into view again and puts empty hangers on the rack, Gillespie picks two more shirts off the rack, and they go to the cashier, Aguilar said the video shows.

The couple paid for the two shirts with a store credit certificate, then walked to the store’s entrance, where they were stopped by security and eventually turned over to police, Aguilar said.

The shirts were on sale for $19.99 to $23.99, he said.

But the couple’s attorneys insist the Cuisinart was a gift and the blouses had already been bought and paid for.


Furio said they hoped to exchange the 14-cup food processor for store credit because it was far too big for a childless couple, and they looked for but did not find shirts they wanted to exchange for the four they brought into the store.

Gillespie and Fraschilla were jailed on suspicion of commercial burglary, and held for three days because they could not post $50,000 bail each. The charges were eventually reduced to petty theft, and after the trial, the pair were sentenced to three years’ probation.

Gillespie was also sentenced to the three days she had already spent in the Ventura County Jail, and Fraschilla to 15 days in jail--a sentence that was stayed in the event he files an appeal.

It was not the couple’s first brush with the law.

Gillespie, Fraschilla and his brother-in-law, Tarzana resident Michael Andrews, were sued in 1994 by the Securities and Exchange Commission for allegedly violating federal securities laws.

The SEC lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles accused the trio of placing purchase orders to buy stock in a publicly traded company through five brokerage firms under margin agreements, meaning the three borrowed money from the brokerages to make the buys.

But the three either never paid for the purchases, or wrote bad checks for the amounts owed, the suit says. The case is still pending, according to the SEC.


Gillespie was also the ex-Mouseketeer who sued Walt Disney Productions in 1990, claiming that Disney took advantage of her young age--14--when she signed her contract for the Mickey Mouse Club show.

Disney promised Gillespie that “she would become a well-known artist,” the suit said, but her career never took off like that of beach-blanket movie star and fellow Mouseketeer Annette Funicello.

That case was later settled out of court.