A Sacramento woman charged for allegedly defrauding a San Francisco-based charity out of more than $121,000 over a period of year-and-a-half pleaded not guilty in San Francisco Superior Court this morning. Lydia George, 36, was charged last week with 68 felonies, including fraud, grand theft and forgery, for giving 62 checks worth $121,800 to people and herself based on fraudulent applications for emergency money from the Chronicle Season of Sharing Fund, according to the district attorney’s office.
She entered a not guilty plea this morning in front of San Francisco Superior Court Judge Tracie Brown while clad in orange jail garb. George’s public defender, Brian Pearlman, asked that George be released from custody on her own recognizance. He said she has never been convicted of a crime and has no violence in her history.
She also cares for her teenage daughter and 21-year-old son, and works at an elder care center in the Sacramento area, he said. Brown decided to keep George in custody on $150,000 bail. According to Brown, George committed a calculated series of serious crimes over a long period. “This was not just a one-off,” Brown said.
According to prosecutors, George used her position as a caseworker to submit fraudulent applications for money for a year and a half. The San Francisco Human Service Agency discovered the alleged fraud in November 2011 and started an investigation into George’s history with the organization. According to prosecutors there were 67 fake applications and 62 checks written to disperse funding.
The Chronicle Season of Giving was established in 1986 to provide grants for families who need short-term assistance. It works with a network of more than 120 community service agencies in the Bay Area. The HSA repaid the amount allegedly taken by George so that check recipients would be able to use the funding as promised by the organization, according to the district attorney’s office. George’s family members attended this morning’s arraignment, with one woman sobbing as George appeared before the judge. She was ordered to return to court on April 23.
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