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President of Maryland PTA charged with stealing from an elderly veteran

Four months after the National PTA attempted to intervene in the running of the Maryland PTA, the president of the state organization is facing charges that she stole from an elderly veteran to pay her utility and credit card bills. The charges are not related to her work as president of the PTA.

Federal prosecutors allege LaTonja Carrera, 46, of Upper Marlboro, stole money from a 73-year-old veteran who lived in a mental health residential facility that she ran in Washington, D.C., according to D.C. Superior Court charging documents and a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

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Carrera is charged with financial exploitation of an elderly person for allegedly stealing $1,524 on Jan. 23, 2019, when she paid a Verizon cable bill and a credit card bill from the account of the veteran who lived in a facility that was licensed by the District of Columbia.

The charges, filed Dec. 1, come months after the National PTA put its Maryland affiliate on probation and attempted to restructure the state organization.

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The Maryland PTA represents thousands of parents in public schools across the state. The national organization said the state PTA had high turnover due to “a hostile board environment, frequent special meetings, and an assumed directive of loyalty to the Maryland PTA president rather than to Maryland PTA,” said Leslie Boggs, the national president, in a May letter to the state organization.

The letter said Maryland PTA leadership refused to provide access to resources and provided insufficient notice for meetings, preventing members from completing their duties.

But the Maryland PTA filed for an injunction to stop the restructuring. Carrera, who was on the board of the PTA at the time, recently took over as president.

Charging documents say that the elderly veteran realized someone had stolen money from his checking account when he overdrew his account and other purchases were declined. The case was referred to the Elder Abuse Investigator in the D.C. Office of the Attorney General. A hearing in the case was held on Dec. 8.

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Carrera did not respond Friday to requests for comment.

The state organization’s attorney, Charles Tucker Jr. of the Hyattsville-based Tucker Moore Law Group, said Carrera has been president, which is a volunteer position, for about a month and has no intention of stepping down. She will fight the charges “vigorously,” he said.

“She hasn’t pleaded guilty and this is a private matter that has nothing to do with her being in charge of Maryland PTA,” Tucker said.

The bylaws and regulations of the organization, he said, do not call for her to step down.

Bradley Shear, a Montgomery County PTA member, called the situation “outrageous” and called on Carrera to step down.

Shear wants to see local chapters withhold dues from the state until there is a change in leadership of the board. Parents who join the PTA at their children’s schools pay a small sum to be a member each year. A portion of that dues payment goes to the state organization.

In a statement, the National PTA said it was aware of the charge against Carrera.

“While we are unable to comment on the incident or charge, National PTA is in communication with Maryland PTA leadership on how this will be handled,” the statement said. “Of critical importance to our association is ensuring that all PTA leaders have and maintain the trust of all PTA volunteers, schools and families. In our association, we are also committed to ensuring financial abuse is prevented and not tolerated.”

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