Two high-ranking officials who used to work at a beloved Latino community resources organization have been charged with stealing in a long-running probe into a pension scandal at the Mexican American Community Services Agency.
Olivia Soza-Mendiola, 53, MACSA's former executive director, and Benjamin Ferrer Tan, the former Chief Financial Officer, 61, have been charged by the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office with one felony count of grand theft. If convicted, the maximum penalty they face is three years in jail and a $10,000 fine.
Soza-Mendiola used MACSA employee retirement contributions to pay for his "own pay raises and increase in net salary by $522 per pay period," according to court records.
Neither of the defendants appeared at a news conference held by the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Public Integrity Unit on Thursday. Both are out of custody.
Only Soza-Mendiola had an attorney present.
Attorney, Guerin Provini denied that his client benefitted personally from any transactions. Anything that his client did, Provini said, "was to help keep the agency afloat. Olivia personally didn't profit one dime."
DA Jeff Rosen said the investigation found no evidence that San Jose City Councilman Xavier Campos, a former chief operating officer for MACSA, played a role in the embezzlement scheme.
The Gilroy Dispatch broke the story of MACSA's questionable financial practices in early 2009. Complaints arose back them about the organizations mismanagement, specifically at the agency's two charter schools Academia Calmecac in San Jose and the now-defunct El Portal Leadership Academy on IOOF Avenue in Gilroy.
As workers discovered their pension system had not been properly credited with money deducted from their paychecks, it came to light employers had been skimming from wages to cover operating costs. El Portal later shut down in 2009.