2009-01-30 / Community

Former public guardian sentenced

Juanita Ann Canley, aka Juanita Browne, 47, has been placed on five years of felony probation and ordered to serve 270 days in the Ventura County Jail. She was sentenced for thefts she committed and kickbacks she received when she was employed as a deputy public guardian for Ventura County.

The Ventura County Public Guardian's Office is the conservator of last resort for individuals who are unable to manage their own affairs and have no family members willing or able to take responsibility for their physical and financial well-being.

Canley was found guilty of one count of felony bribery, nine counts of felony theft of public funds, four counts of felony receiving of stolen property and one count of misdemeanor theft from a dependent person.

Canley abused her position of trust as a deputy public guardian by using money she held on behalf of her clients to make purchases for herself and others. Among other things, Canley bought jewelry, hats, clothing, wigs, cosmetics, perfume, CDs and electronic equipment. She then submitted false receipts to the Public Guardian's Office, charging the cost of the items to public guardian clients.

Search warrants served on Canley's home uncovered property that had been taken from the estates of deceased public guardian clients, as well as current clients who were elderly or suffering from grave disabilities. Investigators found coins, stamps, jewelry and electronic equipment, including a television, which belonged to a public guardian client, that Canley was using in her upstairs den.

On behalf of the victims, the Public Guardian's Office is requesting $6,995 in restitution from Canley as well as return of stolen items.

Canley was also convicted of engaging in a kickback scheme with Hiep Le, a custodian employed by the county of Ventura. Canley hired Le to clean out homes of public guardian clients after they were moved to care facilities. She set the price for the cleanouts and told Le how much to return to her in cash.

In one instance, she told Le to add a "no show" worker to the invoice so she could get $1,500 from the amount paid by the victim.

Le often placed cash in an envelope and slid it through the window of Canley's car, which was parked in the Government Center parking lot. In return, Canley continued to give work to Le.

Le previously pleaded guilty to one count of felony bribery. He cooperated with the investigation and testified against Canley at her trial.

The allegations against Canley were revealed during an investigation of Esther TorresAnaya, also a former deputy public guardian. Torres-Anaya stole and cashed checks belonging to public guardian clients totalling more than $93,000. She pleaded guilty to 47 felony counts and was sentenced to 64 months in state prison.

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