|For Immediate Release
Case # 08CF0119 February 27, 2008
|Susan Kang Schroeder
Public Affairs Counsel
WOMAN CONVICTED OF STEALING $300,000 FROM COUNTY BY ISSUING FRAUDULENT CHECKS ON BEHALF OF WELFARE PARTICIPANTS
SANTA ANA – An employee of a contracted agency for the County of Orange Social Services Agency (OCSSA) was convicted today of stealing more than $300,000 from the County by taking money from Welfare-to-Work participants and writing fraudulent checks with taxpayer funds. Elizabeth Gonzalez, 32, Moreno Valley, pleaded guilty to the court to 257 felony counts of computer access and fraud with a sentencing enhancement allegation for causing loss over $100,000, aggravated white collar crime over $100,000, and property damage over $150,000. She was sentenced to five years in state prison and ordered to pay over $316,000 in restitution.
Arbor Education and Training (Arbor) is an independent company contracted to provide California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) services for OCSSA. The CalWORKs “Welfare-to-Work” program is funded by various government entities. Arbor employees receive participant referrals from Social Services Workers assigned to the CalWORKs program, and meet with the participants to prepare documentation, including checks, to support the participant’s self-sufficiency needs. Arbor assists participants by providing financial assistance for housing, basic needs, professional clothing, domestic abuse services, life and workplace skills, transportation, and support services. These checks are provided as a once-in-a-lifetime, $1,500 maximum allowance and are made payable to property management companies, apartment complexes, and commercial businesses on behalf of the qualified participants.
From January 18, 2005 to August 17, 2007, Gonzalez, a supervisor for Arbor, met participants while they were receiving Welfare-to-Work program services at the Arbor office on Moulton Parkway in the City of Laguna Hills. She offered some of the participants more than the allocated 1-time $1,500 maximum housing assistance allowance. After determining what portion of the rent the participants could pay on their own, Gonzalez instructed the participants to pay her that amount in cash or personal checks on the condition that she would use CalWORKs money to pay the remaining balance. She fraudulently used County funds to electronically pay the landlords for the participant’s rent, but kept the money from the participants for herself instead of returning it to the County and ultimately stole more than $300,000 from the County.
Deputy District Attorney Marc Labreche of the Economic Crimes Unit prosecuted this case.