Gwen Vuchsas, the former president of the Neighborhood Council of Westchester/Playa del Rey, has been charged with embezzling thousands of dollars from a local police boosters association, a county District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman said.
The District Attorney’s Office charged Vuchsas, who also served as president of the Pacific Area Boosters Association, with one count of felony embezzlement Wednesday, October 4th, district attorney spokeswoman Jane Robison said.
If convicted, Vuchsas could face up to three years in state prison, Robison said.
The complaint alleges that Vuchsas wrote several checks between June and August totaling more than $34,000 from a boosters association account to a personal account while serving as acting association treasurer, Robison said.
The Pacific Area Boosters Association is a nonprofit group that supports police youth programs such as Police Explorers.
Vuchsas stepped down as boosters association president in early September and shortly after, resigned as Neighborhood Council president, citing personal and family reasons.
She did not return phone calls from The Argonaut seeking comment on the embezzlement charge.
Robison said Vuchsas pleaded not guilty to the charge Friday, October 13th, at the Superior Court Airport Courthouse. She was released on “her own recognizance” and did not have to post bail, Robison said.
Vuchsas’s next court appearance is scheduled Monday, October 23rd, at the Airport Courthouse, Robison said.
The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Commercial Crimes Division downtown has completed its grand theft investigation regarding money that was reported missing from the Pacific Area Boosters Association, LAPD Lt. Dennis Shirey said.
Cedric Sutherland, who replaced Vuchsas as boosters association president, declined to comment on the situation.
Boosters Association treasurer Mary Richert has said that there are “no missing funds” in the association account.
Ten-year Pacific boosters association member Curt Curtiss said that Vuchsas should have the opportunity to explain the situation but that the embezzlement charge is disappointing.
“It’s a major violation of the trust we had in her,” Curtiss said.
But Mike Arias, who is currently serving as interim president of the Westchester/Playa del Rey Neighborhood Council, said Vuchsas has his support.
“We’ll let the legal process work its way out,” said Arias, who has served with Vuchsas on the Neighborhood Council since its certification in 2002.
Arias added that if the allegation against Vuchsas is found to be true, it would be unfortunate, but that should still not take away from “all the other things she’s done for the community.”