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State: Charity workers stole $40K in funds
AUSTIN -- State police officers with the Texas Attorney General’s Office have arrested Felecia Gonzalez, the county coordinator for the Community Council of South Texas, and Channan Cardella, a case manager at the Salvation Army, according to an April 19 Texas Attorney General press release. Both suspects were indicted April 16 for theft by a public servant, a second-degree felony punishable by two to 20 years in prison. The defendants also were charged with securing execution of a document by deception, a third-degree felony that carries a two- to 10-year prison sentence.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott issued the following statement April 19 following the indictment and arrest of the two:
“Two defendants are in custody after being charged with defrauding a federal program that was intended to serve financially challenged families and prevent homelessness. Rather than helping the poor, the defendants allegedly orchestrated a scheme to divert taxpayer dollars into their own pocketbooks.”
Both defendants were employed by local nonprofit agencies, where they helped economically challenged individuals obtain funds from a federal grant that was created to prevent homelessness. The grant, which was part of the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, was intended to help near-homeless individuals secure an apartment and turn on utilities. According to investigators, Gonzalez and Cardella created phony grant applications using actual applicants’ names, dates of birth, and Social Security numbers. The defendants then hired third parties to pose as landlords who would receive the federal grant funds that were requested in the forged applications. After receiving checks from the federal grant program, the “landlords” and the defendants divided and illegally kept the money for themselves. Investigators estimate the defendants’ scheme defrauded taxpayers of approximately $40,000.
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