A Rancho Santiago Community College District (RSCCD) administrator of a federal-assistance program for migrant farm workers initially claimed she was innocent of cheating students out of their grant money but has signed a guilty plea.
In hopes for punishment leniency, Anna Catalan–who was the director of special programs at RSCCD's Santiago Canyon College in Orange–admitted this month she stole $46,400 from “approximately 64” students who qualified to receive assistance from the U.S. Department of Education.
Catalan is scheduled to personally advise U.S. District Court Judge James V. Selna of her guilt today inside the Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse in Santa Ana.
RSCCD officials placed Catalan in charge of administering the annual grant of $425,000 so that qualifying students–either a migrant farm worker or the child of a migrant farm worker–could receive $600 stipends per full-time semester for living expenses, tutoring, workshops, counseling or health services.
Catalan, who was born in 1978, devised a three-year scam that requested federal checks in student names, and then diverted the College Assistance Migrant Program funds to herself without students even knowing they were supposed to receive aid.
The maximum punishment for her crimes is 20 years in prison, but she hopes the plea deal approved by Assistant United States Attorney Brett A. Sagel will land her in prison no longer than 27 months.
Catalan has been free on $25,000 bail following her six-count, May 2012 federal grand jury indictment.
RSCCD includes Santa Ana College.
UPDATE, July 24, 2013: Judge Selna scheduled a December 2 sentencing hearing.