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Former Trade Tech foundation exec arrested in embezzlement case

The former executive director of a foundation set up to help needy students at Los Angeles Trade Technical College was arrested Thursday on suspicion of embezzlement.

Jiah Rhea Chung, 43, was arrested by investigators with the Los Angeles County district attorney's office on suspicion of public corruption, including embezzling nearly $140,000 while she served as the foundation's director, according to district attorney's officials.

The Times reported on questions about Chung's pay and benefits in early 2012.

A Los Angeles Community College District audit raised questions about Chung's $1,500-a-month car allowance, a $22,000 bonus and $22,000 in extra pay for running a youth orchestra that was funded by the foundation.

Staff and students at the college were also angered by revelations of Chung's spending on meals and entertainment, to the tune of $150 a day.

Chung maintained that her expenses and pay were approved by then-board Chairman Darryl Holter and college President Roland "Chip" Chapdelaine. Chapdelaine, who has since retired, insisted he had not been aware of the extra pay.

A 2012 audit by the district found Chapdelaine's signature might have been forged on checks totaling $137,000. The bulk of them were payments totaling $99,676 to Chung.

Chung now faces allegations that she forged checks to give herself unauthorized pay and bonuses.

Chung will be charged with three felony counts each of public corruption, embezzlement and forgery, according to the district attorney's office. She was being held on $115,000 bail and is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday.

[Updated at 5:27 p.m. PST, Feb. 13: Fred MacFarlane, a spokesman for the foundation, said the board had not been notified of Chung’s arrest.

“The foundation board has been focused on fulfilling its mission, which is to raise funds for student scholarships,” he said.]

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Twitter: @sewella

abby.sewell@latimes.com

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