Trio charged with grand theft, embezzlement after allegedly stealing public funds meant to help homeless in L.A.

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Valencia Stevenson, 40, Sareena Stevenson, 44, and LaToi Allena Pledger, 45 (from left to right) have been charged with have been charged with counts of grand theft and embezzlement in connection to an alleged scam to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars in public funds meant to help the homeless, the California attorney general announced on Oct. 21, 2021. (California Attorney General Rob Bonta’s office)

Valencia Stevenson, 40, Sareena Stevenson, 44, and LaToi Allena Pledger, 45 (from left to right) have been charged with have been charged with counts of grand theft and embezzlement in connection to an alleged scam to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars in public funds meant to help the homeless, the California attorney general announced on Oct. 21, 2021. (California Attorney General Rob Bonta’s office)

Three women have been charged with counts of grand theft and embezzlement in connection to an alleged scam to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars in public funds meant to help the homeless, officials announced Thursday.

The three women worked together to defraud the Los Angeles-based nonprofit People Assisting the Homeless, known as PATH, which is dedicated to helping the unhoused, California Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta’s office said in a news release

Of the three women charged, two had worked for PATH, which in 2016 received a contract from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority to help transition homeless people and families into affordable housing, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Prosecutors allege that, between January and September 2017, the trio siphoned hundreds of thousands of dollars from PATH through an elaborate scheme in which they submitted multiple fraudulent referrals and assistance requests to the nonprofit on behalf of those who were not actually homeless and ineligible for public funds.

“By helping families secure a roof over their heads, tax-payer funded programs like PATH provide Californians in need with an invaluable resource,” Bonta said in a statement. “When these programs are taken advantage of or stolen from, the individuals and families who depend on them are the most harmed.”

After what the Los Angeles Police Department described was a “very lengthy and complex” investigation, the attorney general in September charged Latoi Pledger, 45, Sareena Stevenson, 44, and Valencia Stevenson, 40, with 56 felonies, including grand theft and embezzlement. 

The crimes were allegedly committed in 2017 and occurred in Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino, officials said.

All three women are being held on $1,055,000 bail.

Anyone with information related to this investigation is asked to contact Detective III Manuel Segura at 213-486-6620. During non-business hours or on weekends, calls can be directed to 1-877-527-3247. Those wishing to remain anonymous can call the LA Regional Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (800-222-8477) or go directly to www.lacrimestoppers.org.

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