The Orange County District Attorney’s office has charged former Capistrano Unified School District Foundation (CUSDF) Executive Director Michelle Hart with embezzling more than $42,000 of the non-profit’s funds, the DA announced on Aug. 27.
“Michelle Colleen Hart, 44, of Fresno, was charged with six felony counts of misappropriation or embezzlement of monies by a public officer,” states an Aug. 27 OCDA news release. “She is accused of embezzling the money by writing checks to herself and making unauthorized purchases on the CUSDF bank card.”
According to the DA’s office, Hart ran the CUSD Foundation from May 2014 to the end of 2017, and resigned at the time non-profit discovered the theft.
“Hart was arrested by the Fresno Police Department on Thursday [Aug. 22] and is currently being held on $42,088.91 bail, which is the amount of money she is accused of embezzling from the foundation,” states the OCDA news release. “In order to post bail, she is required to prove that the funds she is using were not feloniously obtained.”
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 in the case.
Court records indicate that a conditional settlement in this case was filed on July 1 of this year. A mandatory settlement conference is scheduled for Sept. 6, and the trial date is still listed as Nov. 12.
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.