LOS ANGELES—Three women were charged with grand theft and embezzlement in connection with a scheme to steal hundreds of thousands in public funds intended to aid the homeless.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced the charges Oct. 21 for Latoi Pledger, 45, Sareena Stevenson, 44, and Valencia Stevenson, 40, with 56 felonies, including grand theft and embezzlement, as well as a special allegation of aggravated white-collar crime with a loss of over $100,000.
Two of the women worked for People Assisting the Homeless (PATH), a Los Angeles-based organization that received a contract from the LA Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) in 2016 to help house homeless Angelenos.
The criminal complaint alleged that from January to September of 2017, the plaintiffs worked together to steal hundreds of thousands from PATH by submitting false referrals and assistance requests for people who were not homeless.
The women allegedly manipulated the identities “through forged and falsified documents, such as leases and income documents” of their friends, family members, and associates to appear eligible for PATH assistance, according to a press release by Bonta.
“By helping families secure a roof over their heads, tax-payer funded programs like PATH provide Californians in need with an invaluable resource,” Bonta said in a statement. “When these programs are taken advantage of or stolen from, the individuals and families who depend on them are the most harmed. We are grateful to the Los Angeles Police Department for their investigation and continued partnership in this matter.”
A PATH spokesperson told The Epoch Times that the organization is aware of and participating in the ongoing legal proceedings.
“At the time, PATH was a victim of a larger scheme that diverted funding from a LAHSA Program. Once PATH became aware of these occurrences, an internal investigation was conducted. All findings were given to the Los Angeles Police Department and appropriate steps were taken to reimburse funds,” a PATH statement said (pdf). “As an organization dedicated to ending homelessness for individuals, families, and communities, we are appalled that people would take away valuable resources from vulnerable, unhoused people.”
Since then, the statement said, PATH has worked to enhance its audit procedures and its system of checks and balances for spending.
The defendants have been arraigned in Los Angeles County Superior Court. All three women are being held on just over $1 million bail.