When Fred Brito was fired last April from his $100,000-a-year fundraising job at the UCLA medical school after his bosses found out he had manufactured his resume, it may have seemed his career in the donation business was over.
By August, Brito was working as chief development officer for the American Red Cross in Pasadena. And he kept the job for more than a month after the Los Angeles Times published a front-page story Aug. 17 detailing his criminal record and 30-year history of faking credentials to gain prominent jobs.
Brito has said that he has embezzled and stolen and deceived more people than he can count over the decades. He has been sentenced to serve a total of 11 years behind bars.
Going by the name Fred Brito Gomez, he donned a Bruin football cap two weeks ago and helped raise money for Katrina hurricane relief at the Rose Bowl during the UCLA-Rice game.
It wasn’t until last week that officials at the San Gabriel Valley chapter of the American Red Cross discovered who Brito was. By Monday, the organization had sent him a letter firing him from his post, where after a 90-day probation period he would have overseen fundraising for an area that covers 30 cities.
The 50-year-old Brito was apparently undone, in part, by an array of personality quirks, including an unnerving penchant for referring to himself in the third person -- “Fred wouldn’t do that” -- and the sudden demands of Hurricane Katrina.
A nagging suspicion led Dereck Andrade, a Red Cross spokesman, to type Brito’s name into a Google search. Up popped the Los Angeles Times article.
“I took speed reading in high school, and boy did it come in handy Friday evening,” Andrade said. “I think I read that L.A. Times article in 45 seconds. I was just shocked.”
Andrade said he called the chapter’s chief executive, Angie Turner, and told her about the deceit.
“I think the first words out of her mouth were ‘No, no, no,’ ” Andrade said. “I said, ‘Yes, yes, yes.’ We were just stunned.”
Andrade said there was absolutely no evidence to suggest that Brito stole money from the organization. He said he could not go into details about his job performance.
In an interview Thursday, Brito, who in the past has posed as a priest, a youth counselor and a psychiatrist, admitted the deceit. But he said he has no choice because a criminal record has cut off second chances.
“It’s impossible for me to get a job, so now I have to fabricate a resume to get a job,” Brito said. “I’ve got a responsibility to take care of two 81-year-old parents who are deathly ill and I’m not going to put them in a home.”
He said that he thought he did a good job for the American Red Cross.
“I’ve served my time for society,” said Brito. “I’m not getting these jobs to steal. At UCLA and at the Red Cross, I didn’t steal a dime from them. I just need to earn a living and no one is going to give me a job even sweeping streets in downtown L.A.”
He said he did not worry about being busted when he attended the UCLA game.
“The chance of me bumping into someone from UCLA that I know was pretty slim,” Brito said.
Despite the glowing but fake resume, Andrade said it became clear that Brito wasn’t up to the task when the hurricane hit New Orleans. Red Cross workers were working long shifts and facing many challenges in the relief effort.
“Katrina was his undoing,” Andrade said. “He folded faster than Superman on laundry day.”
Andrade said he only wished he had found out about the deceit earlier, adding that he was out sick when The Times article was published (the UCLA student newspaper, the Daily Bruin, wrote about Brito earlier in the year).
Brito said he worried the new notoriety would destroy his chances of getting another job.
But he said that among the things he was working on was teaching human resources professionals and corporations how to “spot a liar before they infiltrate their company.”
Andrade said the American Red Cross has already learned that lesson.
“With the next applicant for this position, we’re sure as heck going to be doing a fingerprint check,” he said.