Photo via Pixabay
Photo via Pixabay

Prosecutors have charged two executives of a Los Angeles County group home for youth in the juvenile delinquency system and foster care with misuse of public funds, embezzlement and filing false tax returns.

The charges against Gary O’Neil Batchelor and Steven Bryan Smith, the financial officer and executive director, respectively, of Moore’s Cottage, mark the second time in a year that the district attorney’s office has alleged criminal wrongdoing within the multimillion dollar industry that looks after Southern California’s most vulnerable youth, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday.

As in the district attorney’s recent case against leaders of the Little People’s World group home, the alleged wrongdoing at Moore’s Cottage may have festered for years as county officials ignored signs of financial mismanagement, records show, according to The Times.

“It’s my fault that we didn’t know more about it,” Philip Browning, director of the Department of Children and Family Services, said in remarks reported by The Times.

The alleged activities occurred before 2013, and Browning said they might have been prevented by an improved monitoring system the department put in place about a year ago, according to the newspaper.

Prosecutors filed the criminal charges against Batchelor and Smith in April with no public announcement, The Times reported. The district attorney’s office declined to comment. The two men, who pleaded not guilty and are free on bail, declined to respond to requests for comment.

They are accused of embezzling more than $100,000 from the charity and damaging or destroying property in excess of $65,000, The Times reported. The lawsuit also accuses them of filing false personal tax returns in 2011, 2012 and 2013 — the same period in which they failed to file tax forms for Moore’s Cottage, according to the newspaper.

In total, Moore’s Cottage owed $460,000 in delinquent federal payroll taxes as of September 2013, The Times reported.

A court petition for a search warrant filed this year by the district attorney’s office says that “Batchelor had no intention of paying payroll taxes with the money he withdrew. His sole purpose was to split the withdrawn money with Smith for personal gain.”

—City News Service

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