The former chief executive officer and two managers of a now-defunct employment placement agency are facing charges of fraudulently overbilling Los Angeles County for placing clients into jobs they already held, the District Attorney’s Office announced Thursday.
Salvador Romero Velasquez, 79, Jorge Manuel Hernandez, 57, and Benjamin Watson Brus, 41, are set to be arraigned May 31 on one felony count each of misappropriation of public funds, embezzlement, grand theft and altering or falsifying a public document.
The criminal complaint also charges Velasquez, the firm’s former chief executive officer, with three additional felony counts each of misappropriation of public funds, embezzlement and grand theft, along with a felony count of conflict of interest and two misdemeanor counts of using an official position for personal gain.
The three worked for the now-defunct East San Gabriel Valley Human Services Consortium, also known as LA Works, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
Velasquez, Hernandez and Brus are accused of fraudulently billing the county — to the tune of more than $1 million — for on-the-job training expenditures associated with the nurse residency programs at Torrance Memorial Medical Center and White Memorial Medical Center, according to the criminal complaint.
The defendants allegedly directed staff to falsify public records to make it appear that the agency had provided services to more than 180 people seeking work, according to the District Attorney’s Office. None of the participants, who were part of two nursing residency programs, were unemployed when they were LA Works clients, prosecutors said.
Velasquez allegedly developed an incentive program that provided annual bonuses to himself and others, including his co-defendants, and was tied to meeting county performance measures.
He also allegedly convinced LA Works board members to keep him as a consultant after he retired and continued to receive benefits, including performance incentives and health insurance, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
The criminal complaint alleges that the crimes occurred between June 2009 and April 2014, when the District Attorney’s Office received a referral for investigation of suspected fraud based upon the preliminary results of a data mining project that 17 of 20 participants — out of 173 participants — in the nurse residency program were ineligible for on-the-job training services under the Workforce Investment Act program.
If convicted as charged, Velasquez could face up to 14 years in state prison, while Hernandez and Brus could each face a maximum of 10 years behind bars.
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