Public guardian worker charged with embezzling
A woman responsible for managing funds for wards of the state has been indicted for allegedly embezzling $52,000 in public funds, federal prosecutors said.
Heidi Lacerte was indicted on a single count of embezzlement for allegedly taking money from the Office of Public Guardian between February and October 2010, according to prosecutors.
The stolen money was Social Security and Department of Veterans Affairs benefits meant to cover "current medical and fiscal needs" of beneficiaries who were under the public guardian's care, according to the indictment.
The Office of Public Guardian is a nonprofit group established in 1979 to provide advocacy and guardianship for people whose family is unable to serve as a guardian. Part of Lacerte's job as an estate manager required her to manage the finances of individuals who received services from the Office of Public Guardian, prosecutors said. The indictment was filed in U.S. District Court alongside a plea agreement struck with federal prosecutors.
Federal prosecutors said that the funds were kept in an account held by the OPG, so it could be tapped as needed. But around Feb. 23, 2010, Lacerte began pilfering money from the fund by "having checks written to herself drawn against beneficiaries' funds," according to an indictment. Prosecutors say she also purchased gift cards and took cash intended for beneficiary accounts for her own use.
Court documents do not say how Lacerte's alleged theft was discovered. Terms of the plea deal do not reveal what prosecutors may recommend for a sentence, but Lacerte faces up to 10 years in federal prison and up to a $250,000 fine.
The indictment and plea agreement was made public Nov. 8 in U.S. District Court. Lacerte is expected to enter her guilty plea on Nov. 30 before U.S. Judge Steven McAuliffe in federal court.
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James A. Kimble may be reached at JKimble@newstote.com.