SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS)— Five of six current and former San Francisco Unified School District employees charged with embezzling $15 million from the schools and setting it aside in a reserve fund pleaded not guilty Tuesday at the Hall of Justice.

The complicated case has 200,000 pages of discovery and 204 counts involving fraud related to public funds against six women. The sixth woman was expected to enter her plea next month.

Prosecutors say they diverted federal and state grant money into hidden slush fund accounts. Nearly $750,000 was allegedly used for personal expenses and unauthorized salaries and bonuses. Prosecutors say much of the remainder went toward educational purposes, but not for what was specifically intended.

Defense Attorney Stuart Hanlon represents Trish Bascom, former Associate Superintendent of support services.

“She wasn’t stealing money and the other defendants worked under her,” he said. “She gave them instruction to do what they did and feel that she had the right to do it.”

Hanlon argued the women who worked under Bascom didn’t do anything wrong either.

Hanlon continued to argue that the Board of Education signed off on every transfer and takes issue with District Attorney George Gascon’s characterization.

“The slush fund was just ridiculous. It’s not true,” Hanlon said about the charges of a corrupt account.

Alex Bastian with the District Attorney’s office is standing by the charges.

“It’s about embezzlement, it’s about fraud, it’s about creation of a slush fund,” Bastain said.

Besides Bascom, the other defendants are Linda Lovelace, Meyla Ruwin, Lilian Capuli, Mychel Navales, and Betty Wong.  The five were all part of Bascom’s management team. All six women remain out on bail.

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