Less than two months after being charged, former Capistrano Unified School District Foundation executive director Colleen Michelle Hart has pleaded guilty to three counts of embezzling money from the non-profit, the Orange County District Attorney announced on Oct. 23.
“There is nothing more important than ensuring that every child in Orange County has access to a quality education,” said Deputy District Attorney Nicholas Miller of the Major Fraud Unit in an Oct. 23 news release from the OCDA’s office. “Ms. Hart violated the trust that was placed in her by embezzling money that was supposed to go to school children. Ms. Hart’s convictions for multiple felonies makes it clear that the Orange County District Attorney’s Office will prosecute anyone that steals from our kids.”
Hart’s sentence is 180 days in jail and five years felony probation. She also has to pay back $18,000 in restitution to the CUSDF, on top of the $10,000 she has already paid back, the OCDA’s office said.
Hart worked as the foundation’s executive director from May 2014 until December 2017, resigning not long after foundation officials learned of the embezzlement.
In September 2018, the Capistrano Unified School District Foundation sued Hart, accusing her of fraud and breach of fiduciary duty for allegedly stealing “in excess of $50,000 for her personal gain.”
“[Hart] made dozens of fraudulent charges under the guise of her position as executive director,” CUSDF attorneys told Superior Court Judge Linda Marks, who presided over the case.
Anthony Pignataro has been a journalist since 1996. He spent a dozen years as Editor of MauiTime, the last alt weekly in Hawaii. He also wrote three trashy novels about Maui, which were published by Event Horizon Press. But he got his start at OC Weekly, and returned to the paper in 2019 as a Staff Writer.