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Ex-official of shelter faces theft charge

A prosecutor says Tracy Lynn Salcido bought a fancy lifestyle by `stealing from the neediest kids' in O.C.

February 02, 2007|H.G. Reza and David Reyes | Times Staff Writers

The former chief financial officer of the fundraising arm of Orange County's emergency shelter for abused children was charged Thursday with stealing more than $780,000 from the charity to pay for a home, expensive cars, vacations and shopping sprees in upscale stores.

Tracy Lynn Salcido "was stealing from the neediest kids in the county," said Senior Deputy Dist. Atty. Mark Sevigny. "We have a duty to take care of these kids, but she was stealing from them."

Salcido, 37, diverted $51,000 to $159,000 annually for personal use from 1999 to 2005, Sevigny said.

Santa Ana detectives arrested her Thursday when she appeared in traffic court. Salcido was being held in lieu of $750,000 bail.

The Orangewood Children's Foundation was established in 1981 to raise money for the Orangewood Children's Home in Orange. The foundation has about 60 employees and a $7-million annual budget.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday February 03, 2007 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 2 inches; 62 words Type of Material: Correction
Orangewood foundation: A headline in Friday's California section said that a former official of an Orange County shelter for children had been charged with stealing. Tracy Lynn Salcido is the former chief financial officer of the nonprofit Orangewood Children's Foundation, not the county-run Orangewood Children's Home. She was charged with stealing from the foundation, which is the fundraising arm of the shelter.

Salcido, who was paid $90,000 a year by the foundation, also used the stolen money to pay for a pool and spa at the Yorba Linda home she shared with her husband, David W. Salcido, foundation officials said. The foundation alleged that she bought the house with money she diverted.

After the theft was discovered in summer 2005, Orangewood sued the couple.

Orangewood won a court order freezing most of the Salcidos' bank accounts and got a subsequent order to force the sale of their home to recoup the foundation's losses. But the property, valued at $1.4 million, fell out of escrow, Philip W. Green, Orangewood's attorney, said, and is up for foreclosure Feb. 15.

According to court documents, the Salcidos also allegedly purchased a 2005 BMW, 2004 Chevrolet Tahoe and a 2004 Honda motorcycle with the money.

The couple's bank statements showed that they took trips to New York, Boston, Lake Havasu, the Pala Casino in San Diego County and Yosemite. In addition, they enjoyed numerous shopping sprees to Nordstroms, Bebe, Nine West, Fortunoff, Botticelli, and other stores.

As an accountant and the foundation's chief financial officer it was easy for Salcido to pull off the ruse, Sevigny said.

"She understood the accounting system and how to manipulate it," he said.

A routine audit and questioning of a payment made with a foundation check led to the investigation.

Sevigny said some checks Salcido allegedly used appeared as voided on the foundation's ledger.

But they were written to United Retailer/United Convenience Stores, co-owned by her father-in-law and where she worked as a bookkeeper.

She then transferred the money to her personal account, said Sevigny. Company officials had no knowledge of the scheme, he said.

Other checks were written out for phony grants, scholarships and expenses, he said.

She also hid the theft by underreporting foundation revenue and overstating expenses, prosecutors said.

This week, Orangewood won a $500,000 civil judgment against the Salcidos.

The foundation recently settled with Conrad and Associates, Orangewood's auditor at the time of the alleged embezzlement, Green said.

Although Orangewood has not received any settlement funds, Green said the agency is expected to recover almost everything it lost, including legal fees and costs.

Orangewood officials said they have tightened the foundation's accounting practices.

*

hgreza@latimes.com

david.reyes@latimes.com

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