Puerto Rican accused in $1.4M federal fraud case

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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — A woman who operated dozens of federal Head Start programs in Puerto Rico has been accused of defrauding the U.S. government of $1.4 million and spending most of the money at a casino, officials said Thursday.

Elba Bonilla Bayon faces 175 counts including theft of government property, money laundering and student assistance program fraud, according to U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodriguez.

Bonilla operated and administered 49 Head Start and Early Head Start centers for young children in northeast Puerto Rico that served about 1,318 children. She also was president and chairwoman of a board that oversaw those programs.

She is accused of stealing funds from January 2010 to December 2012, and authorities said she filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in October 2012.

It was not immediately clear if she had an attorney.

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