The owner of a financial services company pleaded guilty in district court in Santa Ana to federal charges related to the embezzlement of more than $1.5 million of her clients’ funds.

Elizabeth Jane Mulder, 34, of San Juan Capistrano pleaded guilty to “wire fraud and subscribing to a false income tax return for failing to disclose the misappropriated funds to the Internal Revenue Service,” according to Thom Mrozek, the public affairs officer for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Prosecutors said Mulder — whose business provided accounting, tax and bookkeeping services — gained the trust of small business clients, some of whom allowed her to control their financial accounts.

“In relation to nearly all of her victims, Mulder convinced clients to make checks payable to ‘Income Tax Payments’ with promises that those payments would satisfy the clients’ outstanding IRS tax obligations and would be forwarded to the appropriate federal, state or local tax authority,” Mrozek said.

“Mulder then deposited these checks into a bank account she created under the name ‘Income Tax Payments’ and converted the funds for her own personal use.”

Mulder created “false personas” and made it appear she was using clients’ money to pay her their expenses related to their businesses, but in reality she “simply was depositing clients’ money into her own bank account,” Mrozek said.

“In total, Mulder’s fraudulent scheme resulted in the theft of approximately $1,538,771 from several Orange County-based businesses, including JAC Wines in San Clemente, Kurtz-Ahlers & Associates in San Juan Capistrano and Andra Builders, Inc. in Costa Mesa,” Mrozek said.

Mulder used the money on personal expenses such as a Laguna Beach rental home, plastic surgery and vacations, prosecutors said.

The fraud occurred from July 2009 until last month, according to Mrozek.

Mulder is due to be sentenced on Oct. 16 and faces 23 years in prison and a $350,000 fine.