Thursday, April 19, 2012
State police officers with the Texas Attorney General’s Office today arrested Felecia Gonzalez, the county coordinator for the Community Council of South Texas, and Channan Cardella, a case manager at the Salvation Army. Both suspects were indicted Monday for theft by a public servant, a second-degree felony punishable by two to 20 years in prison. The defendants were also charged with securing execution of a document by deception, a third-degree felony that carries a two to 10-year prison sentence.
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 with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Inspector General, 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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