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Man Surrenders in Fund Fraud

Crime: An L.A. Times temporary worker is set to be arraigned today in connection with the theft of $64, 236 from the paper's 9/11 relief effort.

April 16, 2002|ERIC MALNIC | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A former Los Angeles Times employee surrendered to Los Angeles police Monday in connection with the theft of $64,236 from the newspaper's Sept. 11 Disaster Relief Fund.

Michael Childress, 35, a temporary employee hired to process mail and donations to the fund, is scheduled for arraignment today on two counts of theft and three counts of grand theft.

Prosecutors said the thefts were uncovered after several donors complained about grammatical and spelling errors in the thank-you notes they received from The Times.

"If this guy had used spell check, he might have gotten away with it," said Jane Robison, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.

Times Publisher and President John P. Puerner announced last month that The Times would make corporate contributions to cover money lost in the thefts. The relief effort by the McCormick Tribune Foundation collected a total of $2.5 million.

Robison alleged that Childress copied credit card information from dozens of donors and then charged the cardholders for deposits he made between September and March to a bank account he had set up. The account used the same initials as the relief fund.

LAPD Det. Edgar White said Childress was identified because he used his own name to open the bank account and provided the bank with correct personal information, including his birth date and Social Security number.

White said that after he identified Childress as the suspect, White paged him.

"He called me back," White said. "We talked.... He surrendered Monday morning at Parker Center."

Childress, who faces up to four years in prison, is being held in lieu of $124,000 bail pending today's court appearance.

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