LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Three former executives of a nonprofit in Los Angeles appeared in court Wednesday following an investigation that spanned four years.
The Chicana Service Action Center’s chief executive officer Sophia Esparza, chief financial officer Silvia Gutierrez, and Thomas Baiz, the vice president of corporate and government affairs, are accused of defrauding Los Angeles County out of $8.5 million.
Esparza, who is out on bail, is accused of using $1.8 million on a lavish lifestyle that included the purchase of an $81,000 Jaguar, season tickets to the Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles Clippers, a
chartered yacht, a home in San Marino, as well as an upscale downtown apartments.
“All that evidence will come out in court and we will show that those expenditures were under corporate law and under the law necessary and for the benefit of the organization,” Michael Nasatir, Esparza’s attorney, said.
The Chicana Service Action Center reportedly received millions of taxpayer dollars to help some of county’s most disadvantaged.
But the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office says the three executives betrayed the people they were supposed to help.
In the complaint, the three are also accused of creating fraudulent records and client files, as well as adding fictitious members to the board.
The case has been continued.
All three defendants are due back in court July 24, with Gutierrez returning Friday for a bail matter.