Tuesday, February 7, 2023 | Back issues
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So Much for ‘Charity Begins at Home’

(CN) - Two South Texas charity officials were arrested and charged with stealing from a program meant to give housing to the nearly homeless, prosecutors said.

"Rather than helping the poor, the defendants allegedly orchestrated a scheme to divert taxpayer dollars into their own pocketbooks," Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said in a statement.

State police on Thursday arrested Felicia Gonzalez, county coordinator for the Community Council of South Texas, and Channan Cardella, a case manager with the Salvation Army. The pair were indicted Monday on a charge of theft by a public service, a second-degree felony, and a charge of securing execution of a document by deception, a third-degree felony.

Prosecutors say both women helped poor people get funding from an anti-homelessness federal grant that is part of the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which intended to help near-homeless people get an apartment with utilities.

"According to investigators, Gonzalez and Cardella created phony grant applications using actual applicants' names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers," according to the prosecutors' statement. "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."

They face up to 20 years in state prison on the theft charge and up to 10 years on the deception charge.

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