Chicago Welfare Director Looted Food Fund

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Welfare Official Aurea Picasso

A former Cook County welfare services director has been charged with stealing from a government food pantry fund to pay for her dental work, car insurance, cell phones, and her daughter’s “Sweet Sixteen” birthday party, among other things.

Aurea Picasso, 45, served as the welfare director for Hanover Township from 2003 through 2009. In her position, she was responsible for providing welfare payments to needy area residents. Instead, officials allege, she used the food assistance fund as her own go-to checking account.

In addition to the $125,000 in checks she wrote to pay her personal expenses, Picasso also had a side scheme to bolster her cash flow. Picasso placed a number of friends and relatives on the welfare rolls, then forged their signatures on their checks and cashed them. She is the 11th defendant to be charged in the county’s ongoing “operation Cookie Jar” probe of government thefts.

On the day that the charges were filed, Picasso was about to be released from state prison on an unrelated identity theft conviction.

Chicago Tribune

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