Woman convicted of fraud

GLENDALE — The president of Soroptimist International of the Verdugos said the club will continue to rally around longtime member Stephanie Mines, despite the community volunteer being found guilty more than a week ago of a felony fraud-related charge.

Mines pleaded no contest on May 16 in Pasadena Superior Court to artificially inflating her bank account balance with the intent to defraud. She was sentenced to three years’ probation and ordered to complete 240 hours of community service, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.

The felony charge stemmed from a check-kiting scheme in which Mines used two personal checking accounts to inflate her balance with the Glendale Area School Federal Credit Union until ultimately defrauding the bank of $21,323 last year.

A no-contest plea is recorded as a conviction, and so Mines is considered a convicted felon, said Jane Robinson, a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office.

Mines, who owns the party-planning boutique Creative Source in Montrose, issued a statement Friday attributing the fraud charge to a time “that mistakes occurred in my business,” adding that “it was never an issue of intent.”

“I had all the responsibility but none of the control,” she said in the statement. “I have since restructured my business and will continue to work hard to get better and not get bitter.”

Mines is also a board member for the nonprofit Glendale Educational Foundation but has been inactive for the past year, board President John Sadd said. Her term expires June 30.

As news of the conviction spread this week, many of those who were either for or against her continuing as an active member with Soroptimist International of the Verdugos maintained their positions.

“I will bring [news of the conviction] to the board, but I don’t think it will make a difference,” said Kate Bernier, president of the club. “We’ve stood by her, as we should, being that we are an organization that helps women in need.”

The club was deeply divided last year when Mines was facing the charge and related civil lawsuit.

Many rallied around her, arguing she was innocent until proven guilty. But some club members felt she should take a leave of absence until the trial was over because they feared it would harm the Soroptimists’ reputation.

At least 10 of the members, including the club’s founding president, resigned in November amid a flurry of accusatory e-mails that were sent between both sides of the membership.

Mines eventually repaid the $21,323 to the credit union, but attorneys pressed ahead with the criminal charge.

Alana Anaya, who represented the credit union in the civil case, filed another complaint against Mines in February seeking $15,000 in unpaid debt that she has reportedly owed a private business owner since 2004.

Mines was served notice of the complaint on May 7 and had 30 days to respond before attorneys would seek a court-ordered lien on her personal assets to recoup the loan plus compounded interest, Anaya said.

While Mines would not comment on the ongoing legal matter, she did say the case did not have “anything to do, any way, shape or form,” with the fraud charge.

“It is unfortunate that Stephanie’s years of community service will now be overshadowed by her felony financial crime conviction,” said Stuart Perliltsh, chief executive officer for Glendale Area School Federal Credit Union.

“As I previously testified in court, I like Stephanie. I just don’t like what she did.”

Even as Mines continues to have the backing of many of the Soroptimists, some of her ex-colleagues shake their heads over her continued membership.

“I think that’s something the club needs to handle,” said Nina Crow, who resigned as the club’s vice president in November. “You can’t brush these things under the carpet.”

Nancy Hathaway, who founded the women’s social service club as charter president, said those who resigned in November did so with “broken hearts” after the impasse couldn’t be resolved.

“Stephanie, I felt, didn’t do the right thing and caused a lot of heartache,” she said.

But Bernier said Mines has no financial role with the club, and supporters have repeatedly cited her years of volunteer service as an attribute that outweighs any legal stumble.

For her part, Mines said in her statement that for the past 16 months, the process “has been one-sided without my voice at any time being heard.”

“This experience has given me the encouragement to break through the silence and work toward helping others,” she said in the statement. “It is with this same spirit that I will continue to remain true to who I am and not work toward dividing this community.”

She declined to comment beyond the statement.


 JASON WELLS covers City Hall. He may be reached at (818) 637-3235 or by e-mail at jason.wells@latimes.com.

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