Tulare Evolutions employee admits to embezzlement

(Paul Myers)

Recent changes made by the Tulare Local Healthcare District to one of its businesses’ practices leads to a former manager’s resignation, and admission to years of embezzlement

TULARE – Several years of embezzlement activity were discovered by the Tulare Local Healthcare District (TLHD) after changes to their system lead to the business manager for Evolutions Fitness and Wellness Center (EFWC) resigning and admitting to her actions.

Passion Cardoza was a longtime employee of the center, acting as their business manager before she resigned on Sept. 12; presumably, due to the fear that changes in operational and financial practices implemented by new district management would expose her actions.

She admitted to embezzlement in tandem with her resignation. According to the release, “these policy changes would likely have uncovered the thefts in coming weeks. The (embezzlement) took place at the (EFWC), a business owned by the district that was recently returned to operational and financial oversight by district management.

“We’re trying to streamline and create effective and efficient processes and I think there’s been a need for that,” said TLHD CEO Randy Dodd. “That’s part of what I’ve been working on since I’ve gotten here.”

While they await to learn more details of what exactly Cardoza was up to, Dodd echoes the release’s statements, admitting that much of what they know now is speculation.

“All I can do is suspect that some of the changes that I’ve been trying to put into place, and the team has been deploying, probably alerted her that she felt she was gonna get caught,” he said. “That’s our suspicion. I don’t know if that’s the case or not, (it’s) really conjecture.”

District management has initiated an investigation to ascertain and clarify the details surrounding the thefts and the matter will be discussed further in closed session at the district’s next regular board meeting, scheduled for Sept. 27.

“Our investigation (has) just begun,” Dodd said. “Once we kind of get through that, and get some more information, we’ll have a better idea of how it was done; you know, what was done, how much was taken – that kind of stuff.

As of publication, Cardoza is cooperating with the district and has promised full restitution. The district plans to provide additional details to both the press and the public as the investigation proceeds.

“What we will do is look into what she has told us; both to validate that information and determine if it’s accurate,” Dodds said.  “We haven’t directly notified the police yet, but as we uncover (more) information, and clarify and evaluate what we see, then we’ll (decide) if a crime has been committed.”

The Tulare Local Healthcare District felt that the public deserved to know what had transpired, which is why they opted to release the information before any formal investigation had begun.

“We felt that the public had a right to know right away about what (Cardoza) has admitted to doing,” Dodds stated. “As new information comes to life that’s relevant, we’ll be happy to share it. I just don’t know what that’s going to look like until we get knee deep into it.”

Kevin Northcraft, the district’s board president, echoed Dodd’s sentiments in a press release, explaining that the TLHD is going to continue to work towards improving their current system.

“As the board president, I am committed to complete transparency with the public and I am confident in the ability of the board and management to continue taking the necessary steps to improve the district’s oversight of Evolutions,” said Northcraft. “We are dedicated to distancing ourselves from the sins of prior district leadership and are clearly focused on strengthening the trust of our community.”

Although information pertaining to the actual embezzlement and specifics of how the TLHD plans to improve their system are currently sparse, the release shares the comments of one of Cardoza’s former colleagues, who expressed her shock and sorrow.

“I am deeply saddened to discover that a trusted colleague has been stealing from us,” said Jayne Presnell, the executive director of the EFWC. “This is a person I care for and have worked with for many years. As a leader there is a delicate balance between trust and verification, and our new practices have resulted in stronger verification measures.”

The Evolutions Fitness and Wellness Center serves as a place for Tulareans to work on improving their physical health and recover from various injuries. The facility offers amenities such as a heated/therapy pool, as well various classes and sessions with private trainers which can all be accessed with a membership.

“It serves probably 6,000 people or more, who come to the gym for fitness, for rehabilitation, for extending life and making the quality of life that they have better,” Dodds said. “It really meets (the TLHD’s) mission in terms of being a place that really enhances health.”

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