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Former shelter employee convicted By Charles M. Kelly | Tue, Dec 22 2009 10:34 AM

Lydia Fitzgerald could get four years in prison for embezzling more than $435,000 from Casa youth shelter

Lydia Kathleen Fitzgerald, 48, pled guilty to multiple charges related to embezzling funds from Los Alamitos Casa Youth Shelter Friday morning, Dec. 18.

Fitzgerald, now stands convicted of embezzling $435,000 from the shelter for runaways. She is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 22, 2010. She could be sentenced to as much as four years in state prison.

It is not known at this time what impact, if any, Fitzgerald’s guilty pleas will have on the civil suit filed against her by Casa Youth Shelter. Civil and criminal cases are handled separately in the courts.

Fitzgerald entered guilty pleas to one count each of grand theft, fraudulently using an access card, second-degree commercial burglary and willfully failing to file a tax return.

She also pled guilty to 23 counts of forgery, 16 felony counts of falsifying records, three felony counts of computer access fraud and three felony counts of filing false tax returns.

The court ordered her to pay more than $390,000 in restitution to the Casa Youth shelter, at least $45,000 than she was convicted of stealing.

Fitzgerald was also ordered to pay more than $93,000 in restitution to the California Franchise Tax Board.

According to both the District Attorney’s Office and the Orange County Superior Court Web site, Fitzgerald apparently embezzled funds between 2004 and 2007.

According to a statement issued Friday, Dec. 18, by the DA’s Office, Fitzgerald altered the shelter’s financial records to conceal her thefts.

When the payroll account was depleted by the embezzlement, Fitzgerald reportedly took out a line of credit in the shelter’s name and used the credit to transfer money into the payroll account.

In June, Casa Executive Director Luciann Maulhardt told the Sun that news of the embezzlement had not harmed donations to the shelter.

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