U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced March 15 that a federal grand jury returned a one-count indictment charging a former UC Davis employee, Beverly Benford of Sacramento, with theft of government property.
This case is the result of an investigation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
According to Assistant U.S. Attorney R. Steven Lapham, who is prosecuting the case, the indictment alleges that Benford misappropriated federal funds while an employee at UC Davis. The funds allegedly came from the annual $13.3 million Food Stamp Nutrition Education Program, half of which is federally funded, that Benford administered. Benford is alleged to have made fraudulent purchases and travel expense claims over a period of at least six years, going back to at least July 2000.
The alleged misappropriation of funds was initially reported to UC Davis officials in August 2006 as a whistleblower complaint. When a campus investigation found that USDA funds possibly were involved, university officials reported their findings to the federal government. Benford has resigned her position in the UC Davis Department of Nutrition and is no longer employed by the university.
"The campus is very concerned about this alleged fraud and will continue to cooperate fully with the federal investigators," said Robert Loessberg-Zahl, assistant executive vice chancellor at UC Davis. "We also are continuing our internal investigation, and working to assure that procedures are in place to prevent any such incident in the future."
The maximum statutory penalty for a violation of Section 641 is 10 years, a fine of $250,000 and a three-year term of supervised release. However, the actual sentence will be dictated by the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of factors, and will be imposed at the discretion of the court.
The charges are only allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.