A former city of Miami administrator who ran a disaster readiness program for the poor and elderly pleaded guilty Wednesday to stealing about $22,000 in federal grants.
Chante Sweet, 35, who ran the program for the city’s Neighborhood Enhancement Team office, was accused of writing checks to three purported employees who did not work for the program.
Two of those people, Simone West, 22, of Miami, and Ashley Rolle, 27, of St. Petersburg, were also charged with theft of government funds and pleaded guilty along with Sweet.
Each of the three defendants, charged in April, faces up to 10 years in prison at a sentencing hearing Sept. 26 before U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke. Their sentences are expected to be substantially less, however, because they accepted responsibility and the theft amount is relatively modest.
In 2007, the city was granted federal funding totaling about $340,000 to hire nine full-time employees for a three-year period. Sweet was placed in charge of the program, including hiring and paying employees.
The FBI-led investigation found that Sweet issued checks to a purported employee identified as “B.R.,” totaling $2,529.13 between 2008 and 2009, according to an indictment. But Sweet allegedly cashed the checks herself. “B.R.” did not work for the program, and was not aware that Sweet made out the checks payable to him.
Sweet also authorized check payments totaling $9,799.80 to West and $9,603.50 to Rolle, both of whom cashed the checks and shared the money with the NET administrator, the indictment said.
According to city records, Sweet joined the administration of former Mayor Manny Diaz in 2006. She earned a salary of $69,176 and stopped working for the city in summer 2010.
Sweet’s defense attorney, Peter Patanzo, declined to comment.