L.A. Times Worker Pleads No Contest to $67,000 Relief Fund Theft

AP Wire Service

LOS ANGELES (AP) – A former Los Angeles Times worker will spend 32 months in state prison for stealing more than $67,000 from the newspaper’s fund for victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Michael Childress, 35, was sentenced Tuesday in Superior Court after pleading no contest to three felony counts of grand theft, prosecutor Oscar Plascencia said in a statement.

He also was ordered to pay restitution to American Express and two other credit card agencies.

Childress was a temporary employee assigned to open mail containing donations to the fund. Authorities alleged between Sept. 20, 2001, and March 19 of this year, he took credit card information from dozens of donors and used it to divert money into a bank account he opened that had the same initials as the Times fund.

The Times learned of the scam when donors complained about receiving letters of thanks that contained numerous grammatical and spelling errors. Prosecutors said the letters were sent by Childress.

In March, the Times notified readers that some of the money from the $2.5 million fund had been misappropriated, but vowed to replace the money with corporate contributions.