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By Lillian Boyd

The former executive director of the Capistrano Unified School District Foundation (CUSDF) pleaded guilty to three felony counts of embezzlement for stealing from the nonprofit’s accounts.

Michelle Colleen Hart, 44, of Fresno, pleaded guilty to three felony counts of misappropriation or embezzlement. She was charged with the crimes in August after it was discovered that she had embezzled the money by writing checks to herself and making unauthorized purchases on the CUSDF bank card.

According to a news release from the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, Hart was sentenced to 180 days in jail and five years felony probation. She was also ordered to pay $18,000 in restitution to the nonprofit in addition to the $10,000 she had already paid back.

The Capistrano Unified School District Foundation is a nonprofit 501(c)3 corporation that has since been renamed the CARE Foundation and is no longer affiliated with Capistrano Unified School District. CARE raises funds to enhance the educational experience of students attending public schools within the Capistrano Unified School District.

Hart served as the executive director for the foundation from May 2014 until December 2017 and resigned from her position after the theft was discovered.

CARE hired an outside certified public accountant to review the foundation’s financial records in order to determine the scope of the loss. The Orange County Sheriff’s Department’s Economic Crimes Detail investigated the case and turned it over to the District Attorney’s Major Fraud Unit.

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