Sophia Esparza, Silvia Gutierrez and Thomas Baiz
LOS ANGELES — An embezzling quartet was ordered to pay over $10 million in restitution last week after pleading guilty to both embezzling and misappropriating public funds from Chicana Service Action Center.
Sophia Esparza, at one time the CEO of Chicana, plead guilty to five counts of misappropriation, four counts of embezzlement, two counts of preparing false documents, and one count of filing a false tax return.
Silvia Gutierrez, former CFO, pleaded guilty to six counts of embezzlement, four counts of misappropriation, and two counts of preparing false documents.
Thomas Baiz, former VP of corporate and government affairs, pleaded guilty to three counts of embezzlement, two counts of misappropriation, and one count of conspiracy.
In addition, Michael Lorenzo Thompkins, a former employee of CSAC, pleaded guilty to one charge of embezzlement.
The LA County DA press release states, “As part of the plea agreement, all four defendants will pay $9 million to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services and Community Senior Services and $1.4 million to the City of Los Angeles Economic and Workforce Development Department. Esparza also will have to pay an additional $103,000 to the California State Franchise Tax Board.”
The nonprofit organization aided domestic violence victims, the homeless and the unemployed. The crimes started in 2003.
Apparently Esparza operated the organization with a “sham” board of directors and a “fictitious list of board of directors.” The group billed for services never rendered and took county and city funding.
The quartet used the money for various luxuries – renting luxury apartments in downtown Los Angeles and a home in San Marino, buying sports cars and season tickets to the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Los Angeles Clippers games, buying expensive meals, chartering a $35,000 yacht cruise, and funding multiple retirement accounts.
They were charged in June of 2015 and will be sentenced in October of 2017.