Former welfare director admits stealing almost $200K in tax money

Crime, Law and JusticeCrimeTheftPoliticsPension and WelfareJustice System

The former welfare director for Hanover Township pleaded guilty today to stealing almost $200,000 in tax money during her six-year tenure and was sentenced to six years in prison, prosecutors said.

Aurea Picasso, 45, who has been incarcerated since an unrelated conviction in a 2009 identity theft case, pleaded guilty to theft of government funds of more than $100,000 today before Judge Vincent Gaughan in Cook County Criminal Court, who sentenced her to six years in prison in the theft case.

Picasso, formerly of Aurora, was Hanover Township’s welfare director from 2003 until 2009, in charge of providing welfare checks and running a food pantry, prosecutors said. She used the township’s checkbook to pay for  $124,560 in dental work, car insurance, cell phones and expenses for her daughter’s “Sweet 16” birthday party, prosecutors said.

She also enrolled family, friends and others for welfare benefits, stealing another $68,550, prosecutors said.

The thefts were discovered when a new administration took over in Hanover Township, which includes parts of Hanover Park and Schaumburg in Cook County, and officials became suspicious, prosecutors said.

"We are pleased that the case is now closed and that Ms. Picasso has been convicted of stealing from those who needed help the most," Hanover Township Supervisor Brian P. McGuire said in a statement. "Since discovery of this theft, the township has made numerous changes to the way General Assistance is distributed along with a complete reorganization of the department."

chicagobreaking@tribune.com

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