Central Coast Kids & Families 1

The Central Coast Kids & Families office on 10th Street in Monterey.

The concept was a virtuous one: provide in-home respite to families with children who have special needs, and provide in-school aides for children with special needs. 

But while nonprofit Central Coast Kids & Families did deliver those services, founder and former executive director Lolita Garcia also used the organization as a passthrough for funds and billed schools for hours of work that was never done. 

That's according to the Monterey County District Attorney's Office, which filed charges in 2018 against Garcia after a two-and-a-half-year-long investigation. Two years later, Garcia accepted a plea deal and was sentenced to four years in prison for embezzlement, tax evasion, submitting false invoices and theft by false pretenses. As part of her plea agreement, she agreed to pay restitution. 

At the time of Garcia's arrest, prosecutors noted that she had a cover story about her nice handbags, nice watch, nice cars and lavish lifestyle: She told people she had a family inheritance. But they determined that she diverted $675,646 from the nonprofit for her own expenses. 

Some of those dollars are more difficult to recover (things like tuition for her daughter's private school tuition, and entertainment tickets) but prosecutors have been able to transform some of Garcia's belongings into cash, which will be paid in restitution. 

District Attorney Jeannine Pacioni announced Aug. 13 that $327,991.86 has been liquidated and will be paid to eight local school districts, a nonprofit and the California Franchise Tax Board. 

"So often in theft and embezzlement cases, there are no assets available to satisfy restitution obligations," Pacioni said in a statement. "Here, we were able to recover substantial assets at the outset of the case to satisfy a large portion of restitution due to these public agencies that are providing critical services to children and parents in our community.”

The property seized that resulted in the restitution funds collected to date includes: personal bank and investment accounts; a Porsche Carrera; a Maserati Ghibli; a Land Rover; a Toyota Tundra; a Jeep Wrangler, a diamond Rolex watch; and Louis Vuitton handbags, all of which prosecutors say were purchased using embezzled funds from the nonprofit Garcia founded in 2008.

The restitution will be paid to school districts that were over-billed by Central Coast Kids & Families for aide work that was not completed. They are: Pacific Grove Unified School District ($105,045); Carmel Unified ($5,414); North Monterey County Unified ($8,353); Salinas City Elementary School District ($2,427); the Monterey County Office of Education ($15,758) and Greenfield Union ($245). Monterey County's Special Education Local Area Plan will also receive $17,610. 

In addition, nonprofit San Andreas Regional Center, which worked with CCKF for in-home respite services, will receive $76,721.62 and the California Franchise Tax Board will receive $96,417.52.

A remaining amount of $458,135 in restitution is still owed.

Garcia's attorney, John Coniglio, notes the restitution was all pre-negotiated as part of the plea deal, in which Garcia agreed to liquidate assets, including multiple cars. 

Garcia is now in the California Institution for Women in Riverside County, where Coniglio says "she has adjusted well."

"Unfortunately, she does have a lot of talent, she just made some poor business decisions," Coniglio adds.

Sara Rubin loves long public meetings, red pens and reading (on newsprint). She has been editor of the Monterey County Weekly since 2016, and has been on staff since 2010.

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