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Hialeah police arrest managers of city-affiliated day-care center

The director and deputy director of a children’s day-care center administered by Hialeah Housing Authority were arrested on Tuesday accused of stealing thousands of dollars from the public agency.

Sherry Ann Casteel Correa, 43, and Yanet María Ortiz, 44, face charges of grand theft for allegedly embezzling $78,200 from the William Lehman Child Day Care Center in west Hialeah.

“There were suspicions of irregularities at the center,” said Julio Ponce, director of HHA. “That is why, at our request, an investigation was initiated.”

Both officials, who worked at the day-care center for more than two decades, were under scrutiny since April 2012, according to the investigation.

Casteel, the director, stole cash in complicity with her right-hand assistant, Ortiz, according to police.

“The money was taken from the payments made in cash for the day-care services,” Hialeah police said in a news release distributed after Tuesday’s arrests. “These [payments] were registered deliberately incorrect in order to hide the missing funds later.”

Ponce said that once the theft was detected, the he notified the police to initiate a criminal investigation.

He lamented that both public officials had taken advantage of their positions to systematically steal money from the center located at 7605 10th Ave.

“Unfortunately, these two people have smeared the work of a team that strives to serve the community,” Ponce told El Nuevo Herald.

Ponce added that the detection of theft has prompted a rearrangement of the payment system in order to avoid similar cases.

Until February 2012, at the place of the children’s day-care center there was an elderly center whose services were discontinued after losses of thousands of dollars, according to authorities.

Since then, the area for the elderly program has become part of the children’s day-care center now involved in scandal.

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