A Good Start: Three Women Arrested in Connection With Homelessness Fraud

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

As opposed to his predecessor and some of his local counterparts, the California Attorney General Rob Bonta is actually targeting crime. For an affirmative action pick, and Gavin Newsom crony, no one is more surprised than me.

From the Office of the Attorney General:

California Attorney General Rob Bonta today announced charges against three defendants allegedly involved in a scheme to steal hundreds of thousands in public funds from Los Angeles-based nonprofit People Assisting the Homeless (PATH). PATH funds, which are used to provide resources to transition unhoused individuals and families into homes by providing them with affordable housing and other services, were instead used by the defendants for their own purposes. On September 9, 2021, following an investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department’s Commercial Crimes Division, the Attorney General filed a 56-count felony complaint, charging the defendants with grand theft and embezzlement, as well as a special allegation of aggravated white collar crime with loss over $100,000.

Bonta charged 45-year old Latoi Pledger, 44-year old Sareena Stevenson, and 40 year-old Valencia Stevenson with these alleged crimes, committed in 2017, in the cities of Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino. The women are being held on bail at just over $1 million each.

According to KTLA:

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.

Homelessness has tripled in the past five years, so we see how well PATH did with their work—not very. According to a Los Angeles Daily News story, California has 161,000 homeless people statewide—the highest rate of homelessness in the nation. By some estimates, California has 48 percent of all unsheltered homeless Americans.

According to local Fox 40, Stockton has seen homelessness triple since 2017, from 311 homeless residents to 921 homeless residents in the 2020 count. In 2020, four homeless a day died in Los Angeles alone. The number of deaths among homeless in San Francisco tripled, helped by the coronavirus pandemic.

Since 2017, damaging fires from homeless encampments have increased and caused millions in damage.

According to the AP:

In the three years since the city’s Fire Department began classifying them, the number of blazes related to homelessness has nearly tripled, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday. In the first quarter of 2021, they occurred at a rate of 24 a day, making up 54% of all fires the department responded to.

The paper said its analysis of records showed that fires related to homelessness doubled in all of the department’s 14 districts since 2018, the first year of complete records. The fires were most prevalent in downtown and South Los Angeles.

So if you give to homelessness causes, you can see where your contributions went. It certainly wasn’t to those who are actually unhoused.

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.”

Not just those individuals and families. The citizens whose safe neighborhoods and quality of life are under attack because of this fraud and failure. From Eric Garcetti, to London Breed, to Gavin Newsom, every California elected officials is to blame for this mess. PATH and other homeless organizations are too, because their so-called leaders and activists have done exactly what Latoi, Sareena, and Valencia allegedly did: used the homeless crisis as their personal cash cow, with no real plans of actually fixing this exacerbating issue. No one is willing to bite the hand that feeds them, which is why as long as these people are in power, calling the shots, and setting policy, homelessness in California will never be solved.