A Coachella Valley Unified School District board member who worked as a Farmers Insurance agent was charged Thursday with keeping more than $12,000 in cash payments from her customers that should have gone into her employer's accounts.
Juanita Delara Duarte, 61, was charged with one count of grand theft and was scheduled to be arraigned Thursday afternoon at the Larson Justice Center in Indio, according to John Hall of the District Attorney's Office.
Duarte was arrested Wednesday at her home in Coachella. Hall said there was no evidence of criminal activity by Duarte in relation to her school board duties.
In January 2011, a customer told Farmers Insurance that he made two cash payments to Duarte in February and September 2010 but never got full credit for his auto insurance payment. Farmers audited Duarte's account and found that, from December 2008 to February 2011, Duarte "received cash payments from customers of more than $12,700, but those cash payments were never applied to customer policies or deposited into Farmers Insurance accounts," Hall said.
Farmers identified 32 of Duarte's customers who made cash payments for insurance premiums to Duarte "which were never properly deposited into the company's accounts, nor did the customers receive credit for the payments," Hall said.
As of Wednesday, Duarte still hadn't deposited the customers' money into any Farmers accounts, Hall said.
"The investigation revealed that Duarte primarily targeted low-income, Spanish-speaking victims in the Mecca area of the Coachella Valley," Hall said.
Duarte had an office listed on Highway 111 in Indio. She was being held at the county jail in Indio in lieu of $160,000 bail, according to jail records.