Homeless director accused of pocketing donations

March 18, 2013

Dee Torres-Hill

KEEPING THEM HOMELESS

By KAREN VELIE, JOSH FRIEDMAN and DANIEL BLACKBURN

(Editor’s note: This is part of an ongoing series about San Luis Obispo County Homeless Services and the nonprofits managing the program.)

Homeless Services Coordinator Dee Torres routinely took gift cards intended for the needy and homeless for her own use, a number of former homeless service employees and ex-boyfriends say.

Torres kept the gift cards in her purse to use for family outings, gas, restaurants and Christmas presents for her friends, Ralph Almirol, the father of Torres’ middle child, said. Almirol said they especially enjoyed gift cards from Tom’s Toys on Higuera Street.

“We would give them to the kids,” Almirol said. “She used them like they were hers.”

Torres’ Homeless Services program comes under the umbrella of Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo (CAPSLO). Employees of both the Prado Day Center and the Maxine Lewis Shelter say that every Christmas, the homeless are remembered by the public with thousands of dollars in gift cards being donated for gas, groceries, restaurants and retail stores. All such donations are to be given to the homeless.

Almirol asked Torres about the cards and the homeless who were supposed to receive them, he said.

“People would give a lot of gift cards,” Almirol said. “I asked her once if she could get in trouble, she said there was no accounting for what is given, and most of them don’t deserve it.”

Other former boyfriends confirmed the allegations, though they wanted to remain unnamed because they are afraid that Torres or government officials will retaliate. Torres is engaged to San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Adam Hill. At least one of Torres’ former husbands relied on his marriage to her to obtain legal resident status, CAPSLO staffers and Almirol said.

Friends of Prado President Roy Rawlings and Torres did not respond to comment requests.

Workers at the homeless shelters said that apart from the rare occasion when a client would do chores such as painting an office, the cards were not provided to the homeless.

“We never saw the gift cards given out,” said Kathy Marti, a former three-year employee of CAPSLO. “Once the gift cards came in she would take them.”

Marti said she quit in 2010 after battling for better treatment of the homeless.

“I was so disillusioned because I never saw any progress,” Marti said. “When I first started working there I loved it, I felt I could move heaven and earth.”

More than a dozen former and current employees of CAPSLO said that Torres refused to give donated goods to the homeless unless they would do chores for her.

“There was so much stuff coming in,” said Carina Salazar, a former CAPSLO employee. “There was all kinds of stuff donated. A lot of stuff got tossed. We went over to the (CAPSLO) main office to complain, but no one would listen.”

Almirol said Torres would divvy up the best donations for family and friends.

“We would go through the donations and pick out the best toys for our kids,” Almirol said. “She would give other stuff to her friends.”

Employees and clients also question CAPSLO’s rule that homeless individuals must provide 50 to 70 percent of their income to CAPSLO in order to guarantee a bed at the shelter.

Richard Walker and his family turned to CAPSLO after they became homeless. CAPSLO required the Walkers, who were on welfare, to pay about $500 a month in cash to the family’s case manager, Walker said.

Despite paying CAPSLO approximately $500 a month, the Walkers still struggled to get necessities, such as baby diapers, from Torres, he said.

“We had to fight with them to buy things for our baby like diapers or rash cream,” Walker said. “We told Dee (Torres) we needed diapers. She told us to get diapers through them, but she would only give us three at a time and then she would get angry when we asked for more.”

After spending about a year and a half in the shelter on case management, the family decided to cancel so they would have enough money to purchase diapers and other necessities, Walker said. But Walker said his family did not receive all of the money they had signed over to case management.

“She gave us most of our money back in a check. She kept the $25 a month they charged us for holding on to it,” he said.

By opting out of case management, the family chose to take their chances on getting beds each night at the Maxine Lewis Homeless Shelter.

CAPSLO requires clients at the Maxine Lewis Homeless Shelter to be waiting outside by 5 p.m. though they may not enter the shelter until 6 p.m. Homeless clients not on case management draw a ticket out of a bucket for a chance to stay the night.

One night, the Walkers drew the right number, but CAPSLO staff told them they still could not stay at the shelter because their eight-month-old had pink eye, Walker said. They asked Torres to provide them a motel voucher. But Torres told the family they could not stay in a motel because they had a car in which to sleep.

“She said ‘no hotel, you have a car,’” Walker said. “Then she gave a hotel room to a man who had just had Lasik surgery.”

Joette Sunshine, a four-year employee of CAPSLO who has left her job, said she was working that night and witnessed the events. Sunshine said she was distressed that a family of four with a sick child was not provided a hotel room, while a man who could afford an expensive eye procedure was.

“Part of the deal not to be able to get a hotel room was if you had a vehicle and a certain income,” Sunshine said. “This man had more than $1,200 a month in income and a van. The motel money was there for people who needed it, yet the Walkers were denied a hotel room.”

Several years ago, the Walkers got into housing on their own, though they said that CAPSLO lists them as one of their housing “success” stories.

 

Keeping Them Homeless, the series.


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dondon_1055

Approximately 6 weeks have passed since the first article was initially posted. And we hear there is at least one official investigation, maybe more. With all the allegations that have been put forth, has anything changed yet at CAPSLO and Family Ties? Has anyone heard of any changes in policies and procedures? Or is everything still being run the same? How much more pathetic can this whole situation get? I took the liberty of forwarding the articles to many regional and national level news organizations. I don’t know if anything will ever come of that. What’s it going to take for agencies, cities and county to wake up?


MaryMalone

I think the leadership of both agencies are spending their time frantically doing two things:


1. Shredding incriminating documents.

2. Stealing as much as they can, while they can.


tomsquawk

with both hands


Reality Check

CAPSLO didn’t promptly take administrative action to put Torres on leave during a real, sincere, investigation. Maybe, Biz Steinberg feared that CAPSLO’s whole policy of requiring homeless to pay for donated services would be seen for what it is: a scam that pushes the homeless further into poverty.


Now CAPSLO has stonewalled too long. The appalling misuse of donations by CAPSLO and / or employees is becoming more clear. Credible witnesses are describing behavior amounting to embezzlement, fraud and worse. How long will Biz continue to protect Torres?


How long before enough facts come to light to move forward with criminal charges?


How long before the duped public at every level, small donor to the City and County stop giving money, goods and services to CAPSLO? Everyone should have cut off CAPSLO immediately, but here we are. CITY of SLO, COUNTY of SLO do the right thing, now, stop funding and protecting CAPSLO..


Honest people and organizations will step forward to help the homeless when corrupt CAPSLO is moved out of the way of true humaitarians.


Bluebird

I think Dee Torres is a sociapath. Most sociapaths are manipulative, without a conscience and atuned to how to respond to different social settings. For example there is no record/paper trail of the donations so she usues the gift cards for herself. Nice supplement to her $70,000 salary. It also helps that she is attractive.

Guess Biz still has her head stuck in a hole.


MaryMalone

I agree, BB.


I hesitate to use the psychological term “sociopath” because it is so overused.


However, her behavior has so many of the hallmarks of that diagnosis, I also believe she, at the very least, has sociopathic tendencies…if not full-blow sociopathy.


SanSimeonSam

I am speechless, I actually hope this story is not true.

Where are the denials from Ashbaugh and Arnold and Steinberg, Hill and Gibson and Marx. It makes the accusations about Ashbaugh using our police force to harass non CAPSLO homeless and Gibson orchestrating the demise of Sunny Acres to limit the options of the homeless seem very plausible. This way the homeless have limited options and have to turn over their money to these fine folks. I have never been much for conspiracy but CAPSLO has a budget of 60 million a year and it seems very little of it goes to the homeless and so there is a lot available for our very greedy government officials.


tomsquawk

Just when I thought I’d heard it all. Oh well, homeless don’t need toys. Surely those cards have an audit trail.


MaryMalone

An audit could be done only if there was documentation that specific cards were given to CAPSLO.


The possible benefactors, generous enough to give gift cards to CAPSLO, should be made aware that fraud may have been committed and perhaps the benefactors have receipts for the cards.


This is sickening. It is simply beyond words.


Cindy

tomsquawk, I doubt that there is an audit trail. A gift card isn’t like a credit card. It doesn’t require ID to use it. Certainly the retailers who gave the cards know how much was donated and in what denominations but they have no way of knowing who used them. It was a perfect rip-off for a dishonest person who was trusted with those cards by Wal-Mart, Ross Stores, Tom’s Toys, Von’s and many, many others including everyday citizens who gave gift cards.


tomsquawk

good point & remind me to forget gift cards.


kettle

If walmart or target wanted to know who used a card they just need a # and motovation.

They would then spin up the security video disk for regester 12. No names but a video and list of products sold (just like yhey do for bad checks and cc’s).


taxpayer

So how many free meals, paid for with homeless gift cards, have Dee Torres and Adam Hill shared together?


everyman

To me, this is a sad story we can all learn from.


I bet (if this is all true, and it probably is) Dee started out with the best of intentions to help the homeless, and slowly, little bad decision, by little bad decision, she came to this point. One little step at a time, she walked herself on this road to perdition and incarceration. Let this be a lesson to all of us. Keep it straight. Do not deviate from goodness even by a little bit, because, at the next opportunity, you will deviate by more, and then again by more, until you start to justify your horrible behavior, and become truly ugly, both within and without.


I bet if the Dee who probably started out “working to make the world a better place” would be aghast at what she has become, and baffled as to how this came to pass.


Be warned, lest it happen to us.


MaryMalone

“Dee”? How cozy.


I disagree about Torres starting out with the best intentions. This kind of thievery–especially targeting victims who both need the help the most and who have the least resources to fight back– indicates a multiple-issue lack of morality (her affair with a married man AND her alleged thievery from CAPSLO). This is not simply a good person wandering astray.


I am reluctant to use psychological terms which are widely overused, but her behavior indicates a sociopathy that is deeply rooted.


I very highly doubt this is the first fraud scam she has pulled and, if she is not imprisoned where she cannot prey on victims like the homeless population, she will continue to commit it.


What is truly frightening is the degree to which this fraud occurred, the largely powerless nature of her target victims, her willingness to have a sexual affair with a politician who could provide her MORE opportunities to commit fraud against victims, and the sheer audacity in the transparent way her crimes were carried out, committing these alleged crimes in such a way that many others knew what she was doing.


She truly believes she is above the law, and that the rules that impact the rest of us simply do not apply to her.


In addition, I believe Adam Hill is just as bad as she is. He had to have known what was going on, and he abused his power as a board supervisor to facilitate her crimes, provide her extra opportunities to commit her crimes, >TO TARGET THOSE WHO ARE WILLING TO BRING TO THE OPEN HER CRIMES (i.e., CalCoastNews), and to assist in the coverup of these crimes.


As strongly as I believe Dee Torres committed these alleged crimes, I believe Adam Hill was her simpering little handmaiden throughout it all.


The OIG needs to investigate them both. Torres would not have been able to commit the degree of crimes that she has if it was not for the help of Adam Hill.


Cindy

“I bet (if this is all true, and it probably is) Dee started out with the best of intentions to help the homeless,”


everyman, If she started out with the best of intentions to help the homeless, she never would have stolen all those gift cards, never, not for any reason. That is beyond my comprehension. How does a person steal from the homeless at Christmas and give to her own children what should have gone to children who had nothing? Tell me how do you do that ? What about all the retail stores and restaurants that the homeless could have enjoyed at Christmas with those gift cards that were fully given for their benefit? How is it that Dee Torres decides that homeless families, children, men and woman don’t deserve their Christmas presents and so she decides that she and her own deserve what was given for someone else who had nothing?


This is beyond words, I work fundraisers to help the homeless and I know how hard people work to help them, I can’t say what I would like to do to this woman. I’m not even sure myself what I would like to do to her but it isn’t anything that I would be proud of.


everyman

I thought maybe, just maybe, this was a witch hunt. Just maybe, you all were unconsciously twisting the facts because, you know, many of us have great animosity towards the county.


This is damning to me. Dee is in real trouble. She may be going to jail soon. At some point, if Adam HIll is a political animal, he may have to abandon her to maintain his career. But I don’t think he is a political animal. He probably loves her more than his career.


Whyaduck

Or he loves the immunity the marriage will give him.


MaryMalone

Yowzer.


I don’t believe, as do many, that Adam Hill’s strange behavior regarding Torres’ alleged crimes was to protect Torres.


I believe his behavior was largely in part to protect himself. He abused his power as county supervisor to provide her extra opportunities to commit these crimes. He abused his power to attack the messenger (CCN) who brought us the news of these crimes. He abused his power to retaliate against those who spoke out against these crimes.


It sounds to me like it is more the behavior of a co-conspirator than a love-smitten doofus politician.


MaryMalone

Adam Hill is in it up to his eyeballs. At the very least, he facilitated her alleged crimes by abusing his power as county supervisor to provide her many extra opportunities to commit fraud against the county and the people the county serves.


They BOTH need to be investigated by independent investigators.


Where is the State Controller? Where is the State Attorney General? These kinds of heinous crimes are being committed against one of the most vulnerable populations of state residents, and the State does nothing to stop it?


MaryMalone

The information from CCN was damning MONTHS ago.


And you are just now waking up?


Why?


Scarlet

See that picture at the top of this story? That is what EVIL looks like.


And I’m sure we’re about to be dazzled here with stories about how bad these ex’s are. Well, they were good enough to father a bunch of her children, weren’t they?


Friends of Prado: DO SOMETHING!


PaulJones

“they were good enough to father a bunch of her children, weren’t they?”


FACT: She has three children by 3 different men and was only married to one of those baby daddies although she as been married several times. I actually feel bad for Adam Hill if that is possible although I guess we all get what we deserve. I believe this will be her 4th or 5th marriage. This woman sure has tramped around when you consider all the men she lived with, the illegal immigrant she married to get him resident status and her numerous divorces. What a piece of work and the worst kind of thief to boot.


Best wishes to Hill and Torres on their engagement, they are probably a perfect match, that is for as long as it lasts.


slocal

If this is the truth, Dee Torres should be run out of town.


MaryMalone

“Run out of town”?


She should be arrested, tried, and, once convicted, locked up for federal crimes.


WHY IS SHE STILL RUNNING CAPSLO???


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