Two former employees of Chicago House and Social Services Agency have been charged with robbing the HIV/AIDS services and advocacy organization of nearly $400,000.
Chicago Tribune reported March 11 that former Chief Financial Officer Andrea Peoples allegedly embezzled more than $350,000 from Chicago House, often using the money for shopping from high-end retailers, according to prosecutors. Peoples is charged with felony theft of more than $100,000, and is being held on $50,000 bond.
Peoples' co-worker Tijana Timatyos is accused of thefts slightly more than $48,588. She faces a charge of felony theft over $10,000 and was released on a personal recognizance bond.
The thefts, discovered in early 2020, left Chicago House in dire financial circumstances from which organization officials say they have since recovered.
Peoples' work had triggered suspicions in late 2019 after she repeatedly delayed an audit reviewing the agency's records and financial compliance. She was let go in early 2020.
"We are relieved that the first steps towards justice were taken not only for our organization, but for the individuals and families who depend on us every day," said Michael Herman, Chicago House CEO. "Instead of allowing this fraud to be our undoing, we took the right steps to ensure Chicago House is stronger than ever. The support of our donors and partners has been nothing short of miraculous and we are grateful to be in a position where we can continue making an impact for years to come."
In March 2020, Chicago House Board Chair Ryan Garrison told Windy City Times that Peoples' bookkeeping expertise gave good cover to the alleged thefts. She allegedly took funds not subject to grantors' restrictions; those funds, however, usually cover day-to-day expenses an organization must meet to survive.
"The effect is pretty devastating," said Garrison at the time. "We believed we had a large, unrestricted cash reserve that we discover has been depleted. Because that doesn't allow us to weather the ebb-and-flows of our funding-grant cycle. … Those unrestricted dollars are vital."
Peoples and Timatyos will be back in court March 25.
Chicago Tribune's article is at bit.ly/3bR2VHu. Windy City Times' 2020 report on the investigation is at bit.ly/3bT2JY7 .