A Philadelphia woman and her daughter were charged on Thursday by the state attorney general with stealing nearly $220,000 in taxpayer funds from a nonprofit welfare-to-work program the mother ran.
Harriet Garrett, 63, and Yvette Gimenez, 40, are accused in a grand jury presentment of misappropriating funds at Creative Urban Educational Systems (C.U.E.S.).
The board of directors of the nonprofit includes J. Whyatt Mondesire, president of the Philadelphia NAACP, and State Rep. Rosita C. Youngblood (D., Phila.).
Garrett was vice president and general manager of the Philadelphia Sunday Sun for 14 years until 2006, when she resigned to devote more time to the nonprofit, according to a report in the Philadelphia Daily News. Mondesire is the publisher of the weekly newspaper.
Mondesire and Youngblood did not respond to requests for comment.
Garrett employed her husband and two of her daughters at C.U.E.S., which violated a nepotism clause in the contract the nonprofit had with the Philadelphia Workforce Development Corp., which received state and federal funds, according to the grand jury.
Garrett, of the 8000 block of Fayette Street in the Cedarbrook section, spent more than $35,000 in taxpayer money to buy a GMC Yukon Denali, which her family used, the grand jury said.
She also used $4,500 in public funds to pay back taxes owed by her husband, Glen Garrett, according to the grand jury.
She allegedly paid one daughter $3,000 for a class the daughter never taught, overbilled for various services, and double-billed for books that were to be used by students.
Garrett is charged with seven counts of theft and one count of criminal conspiracy. Gimenez, of the 5800 block of North Sixth Street in Olney, is charged with one count of theft and one count of criminal conspiracy. Each charge is a felony with a maximum penalty of seven years in prison and a $15,000 fine.
Both had preliminary arraignment in Harrisburg, where the case will be prosecuted. Garrett was released on $25,000 bail and Gimenez was released on her own recognizance.
The grand jury investigation was initiated in October 2008, following a report by the Pennsyvlania Office of Inspector General. The investigation was prompted by numerous complaints by students dating to 2006.
Eric Shirk, spokesman for Attorney General Tom Corbett, declined to say whether the investigation was continuing.
The grand jury presentment said that C.U.E.S. was incorporated in 1995. Garrett was president and Gimenez was treasurer. The other listed officers were Gwen Polk, vice president, and Ronald Edwards, secretary.
The nonprofit's board included Mondesire, Youngblood, Brian Evans, Celestine Koger, Victoria Taylor, and Cecilia Izzard. "That was the board when it was incorporated and still is," Shirk said.
The contract was originally awarded to a nonprofit called Next Generation Community Development Corp., according to the grand jury. Mondesire was president of Next Generation and Garrett was treasurer.
In 2005, the directors, including Mondesire and Garrett, signed a resolution transferring the contract to C.U.E.S. and the document was submitted to the Philadelphia Workforce Development Corp., the grand jury said.
Garrett then transferred $85,000 from Next Generation to C.U.E.S. and used part of the funds to buy the Denali, according to the grand jury. The money allegedly was from leftover funds that should have been returned to the government.
Koger, who was director of education for C.U.E.S., testified to the grand jury that she believed Mondesire relinquished his duties to Garrett when C.U.E.S. took over the contract.
Koger testified that she overheard a conversation in which Mondesire allegedly told Garrett, "Now it's in your hands. If you get in trouble, it's your problem."