Three women have been charged with 56 felonies, including grand theft and embezzlement, for an alleged scheme to rip off hundreds of thousands of dollars in state funds that were supposed to go to homeless people.
Latoi Pledger, 45, Sareena Stevenson, 44, and Valencia Stevenson, 40, are accused of stealing roughly $400,000 from L.A.-based nonprofit People Assisting the Homeless (PATH)—which was contracted by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority in 2016 to help transition people into affordable housing—“by submitting fraudulent referrals and assistance requests to PATH for clients who were not homeless and thus ineligible to receive PATH funds,” Attorney General Rob Bonta announced in a press release Thursday.
According to the complaint, the trio allegedly pulled off the grift in 2017 and were charged last month.
“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. “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.”
In carrying out the alleged theft, the three women—two of whom were PATH employees—are also accused of enlisting fake clients including “their associates, friends, and families, whose identities they manipulated through forged and falsified materials, such as leases and income documents, so that they appeared eligible for PATH assistance.”
PATH media director Tyler Renner put the figure at about $400,000 in a statement to the Los Angeles Times, adding, “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.”
PATH has reimbursed LAHSA for the missing money, Renner said, and the organization’s insurance company covered part of the loss.
The three defendants pleaded not-guilty in L.A. Superior Court are due back next month.