Former Portland charity chief found guilty of stealing money intended to feed needy kids
A Portland jury has found a Colombian man guilty of stealing money from a federally funded program that was supposed to help feed and teach at-risk children.
Gerardo Mosquera, 42, potentially faces up to 10 years in prison after his Thursday conviction for stealing U.S. Department of Agriculture funds administered by the Oregon Department of Education. His sentencing was set for Dec. 12.
Mosquera, who had been the executive director of a Portland nonprofit called Diversity Initiatives, received more than $1.6 million from the Department of Education from 2003 to 2009. The money was intended to help underprivileged children.
But in 2008, Education Department employees grew suspicious of Mosquera's company. They learned the number of sites where the meals were supposed to be served had decreased at a time when the nonprofit claimed to be serving more meals. An audit revealed that about 100,000 meals Mosquera claimed to have served never reached the plates of needy kids.
"Hunger is an important issue, and it is particularly important in Oregon," said Helen L. Cooper, who helped prosecute the case. "We want to send a clear message that if someone abuses a social services program -- whether it is food stamps, Social Security, or this child nutrition program -- we will hold them accountable."
Authorities say Mosquera fled to his native Colombia in 2009, as federal agents investigated him for fraud. He was extradited last December and pleaded not guilty.
Mosquera had arrived in the United States in 1990 on a six-month green card for visitors and never left, Cooper said. He is expected to be deported after he serves his prison term, she said.