|For Immediate Release
Case # 08CF2767
|Susan Kang Schroeder
Public Affairs Counsel
YOUTH CRISIS SHELTER EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT SENTENCED TO FOUR YEARS IN PRISON FOR EMBEZZLING OVER $435,000 TO SPEND ON
PERSONAL LUXURY ITEMS
SANTA ANA – A youth crisis shelter executive assistant was sentenced today to four years in state prison for embezzling more than $435,000 from the shelter and spending it on a lavish personal lifestyle. Lydia Kathleen Fitzgerald, 48, formerly of Los Alamitos, pleaded guilty Dec. 18, 2009, to a court offer to one felony count each of grand theft, fraudulently using an access card, second-degree commercial burglary, and willfully failing to file a tax return, 23 felony counts of forgery, 16 felony counts of falsifying a book of records, three felony counts computer access fraud, and three felony counts of filing false tax returns. Fitzgerald has been ordered to pay over $390,000 in restitution to the shelter and over $93,000 in restitution to the State of California Franchise Tax Board, plus ten percent interest from the date of loss.
Between April 2004 and November 2007, Fitzgerald embezzled more than $435,000 from the Casa Youth Shelter in Los Alamitos, a charitable organization that provides temporary shelter and counseling for runaways and youth in crisis. While employed as an executive assistant, Fitzgerald forged numerous checks to herself and charged personal expenses for herself and her family on a company credit card. She used the money to remodel her home and purchase vacations, meals, clothes, a car, a boat, and numerous other luxury items.
Fitzgerald attempted to hide the theft by altering the shelter’s books and records to show untrue payees or payment amounts. When the bank account used for payroll began to deplete from Fitzgerald’s theft, she opened a line of credit in the shelter’s name and used that line of credit to transfer money into the payroll account. The defendant failed to report or pay taxes on the income from the stolen money. Fitzgerald also put $45,000 in stolen money back in the shelter’s accounts to attempt to hide her theft.
The Director at Casa Youth Shelter discovered Fitzgerald’s theft after the bank alerted her to the discrepancies in their accounts.
During the sentencing today, former Casa Youth Shelter Director and Board member Stephen Ellis, a partner at Rutan & Tucker, LLP, gave a victim impact statement to the Court addressing the emotional and financial impact Fitzgerald’s theft has had on the shelter. He explained that financial contributions from the community have understandably decreased as a result of mistrust stemming from how the finances were mismanaged under Fitzgerald. He also described the betrayal felt by the at-risk youth who are served by Casa Youth Shelter, who already have issues with trust as a result of their personal experiences.
Deputy District Attorney Brian Mulherin of the White Collar Crime Team prosecuted this case.