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State worker charged with $724,000 theft

Posted: Monday, March 22, 2010

ANCHORAGE - A 35-year-old state public assistance worker from Anchorage and Kodiak has been charged with stealing $724,000 over five years.

Chona Agtarap was a case evaluator based in Anchorage who spent weekends at her home in Kodiak.

She's charged with fraud and theft and is being held on $50,000 bail. Alaska State Troopers say she authorized payments to herself and cashed or deposited the checks.

A research analyst with the state Department of Health and Social Services two weeks ago noticed irregular state payments involving closed public assistance accounts.

The department found at least 150 irregular payments from April 2, 2005, through this month, prosecutors said. Treasury warrants made payable to "C. Aguinaldo" were sent to the same Kodiak post office box.

Prosecutors said all the irregular payments over the past year were authorized by someone using the user ID and password assigned to Chona Aguinaldo Agtarap. The money was put into financial accounts owned or co-owned by Agtarap, prosecutors said.

The department alerted troopers last week that Agtarap appeared to have stolen $724,000 over five years. Troopers are trying to verify the exact amount.

"Most of it's gone," said Sgt. Derek DeGraaf, supervisor of the Alaska Bureau of Investigation's technical crime unit.

Agtarap was charged Thursday with theft, fraudulent use of an access device, and scheme to defraud.

Troopers seized a 2010 Nissan Armada, a 2008 Nissan Pathfinder, three four-wheelers, a Glastron boat, firearms, home electronics and furniture from Agtarap's home in Kodiak. The property was bought with stolen money, troopers said. Troopers had to hire movers to collect it.

Officials with the Department of Health and Social Services have not addressed why it took so long for the suspected fraud to be discovered.

Agtarap kept the amount of each check under $5,000 so it would not trigger a higher-level review, DeGraaf said.

Agtarap began working for the state Division of Public Assistance in January 2003, making $18.65 an hour as a part-time eligibility technician. The next year, she became full-time. At the time of her arrest, she was making $48,516.

Agtarap was arraigned Friday. She told a judge she couldn't afford an attorney.



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