The former chief financial officer of a charity that provides housing and other support to persons living with HIV and AIDS stole more than $300,000 from the organization to pay for her divorce, buy an Audi, and go shopping at high-end retailers, prosecutors said.
A close friend of the woman, who worked as the charity’s chief program and development officer, is accused of embezzling a lesser amount.
On Thursday, Assistant State’s Attorney Paul Kiefer told Judge Charles Beach that the thefts from Chicago House Social Service Agency came to light after the charity launched an investigation when its top finance officer, Andrea Peoples, was charged last year with stealing money from her previous employer, Planned Parenthood.
Chicago House, which was founded in the early days of the AIDS epidemic, was three days away from shuttering due to lack of funds when the alleged thefts were discovered, Kiefer said.
According to Kiefer, Peoples stole $350,142.45 of Chicago House funds through electronic transfers and checking deposits to her personal accounts that were disguised as payments to legitimate vendors. The alleged scam also involved the misuse of a credit card the charity provided for business purposes.
“She had lavish spending habits,” Kiefer said as he accused her of using money intended to help LGBTQ community members with health and housing resources to go on shopping sprees at Neiman Marcus, Yves Saint Laurent, and Louis Vuitton.
She put $12,500 of the charity’s money toward a new Audi and used more to pay for her divorce attorney, Kiefer continued. Chicago House was paying her a salary of $125,000 at the time.
As the charity’s chief financial officer, Peoples was “at least complicit or permissive” in allowing her friend and co-worker, Tijana Timatyos, to steal $48,588.47 from the organization for personal use, Kiefer said.
Rather than going toward helping people in need, $48,588.47 of the charity’s funds paid for Timatyos’ purchases at Ashley Furniture, Darvin Furniture, and American Mattress, according to Kiefer.
Peoples, 42, lives in Burr Ridge and is charged with felony theft of over $100,000. Timatyos, 54, lives in Hillside and is charged with felony theft over $10,000.
Neither of them is currently employed, according to their defense attorneys.
Judge Beach set bail for Peoples at $50,000 and ordered her to go onto electronic monitoring if she posts a $5,000 deposit bond. He released Timatyos on her own recognizance but said she must also go on electronic monitoring.
Chicago House was days away from closing when it learned of the alleged embezzlement, “that’s largely because of Ms. People’s representations to the board that they were financially solvent when they clearly were not,” Kiefer told the judge.
The charity was temporarily unable to make payroll or rent and they were on the cusp of losing federal grants that fund some of its operations, Kiefer said.