Chicago — The former chief financial officer of Chicago House, a charity that provides housing and other support to persons living with HIV and AIDS, has been sentenced to prison for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from the organization, allegedly to pay for her divorce, buy an Audi, and go shopping at high-end retailers.
A close friend of the woman, who worked as the charity’s chief program and development officer, has received probation.
Andrea Peoples, 44, received concurrent four-year sentences from Judge Michael Clancy after she pleaded guilty to two counts of theft of between $100,000 and $500,000, according to court records. Prosecutors dropped 17 other felonies in their deal with Peoples.
The other woman, Tijana Timatyos, 56, pleaded guilty to continuing financial crime enterprise in exchange for two years probation from Clancy. She paid full restitution of $15,980.14 to the charity at her sentencing hearing, court records show.
In March 2021, prosecutors said Chicago House, which was founded in the early days of the AIDS epidemic, was three days away from shuttering due to a lack of funds when the alleged thefts were discovered.
“That’s largely because of Ms. People’s representations to the board that they were financially solvent when they clearly were not,” prosecutor Paul Kiefer said during People’s initial bail hearing.
The embezzlement came to light after Chicago House launched an internal investigation upon learning that Peoples was charged in 2020 with stealing money from her previous employer, Planned Parenthood. The Planned Parenthood case accounts for the second prison sentence she received.
Peoples stole $350,142.45 of Chicago House funds through electronic transfers and checking deposits to her personal accounts disguised as payments to legitimate vendors, prosecutors said during her initial bail hearing. The alleged scam also involved the misuse of her charity-issued credit card.
“She had lavish spending habits,” Kiefer said, accusing her of going on shopping sprees at Neiman Marcus, Yves Saint Laurent, and Louis Vuitton with money intended to help LGBTQ community members with health and housing resources.
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.
The charity was temporarily unable to make payroll or pay rent, and they were on the cusp of losing federal grants that fund some of its operations, Kiefer said.
As the charity’s chief financial officer, Peoples was “at least complicit or permissive” in allowing her friend and co-worker, Timatyos, to steal from the organization for personal use, Kiefer said.
Timatyos allegedly used the money to make mattress and furniture purchases.
Records from the Illinois Department of Corrections show Peoples reported to prison on January 25 and was released on February 24 after having her sentence cut in half for good behavior and offset by credits earned while the case was pending.