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Former Lawrence Hall Of Science Employee Stole Nearly $400,000

BERKELEY (CBS SF) -- A former Lawrence Hall of Science employee has pleaded guilty to stealing nearly $400,000 from the Berkeley museum and research center over a six-year period, according to federal prosecutors.

DeSondra Michell Ward, a 44-year-old Pinole resident, pleaded guilty Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Oakland to five counts of theft from programs receiving federal funds, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Ward worked at the Lawrence Hall of Science, which is operated by the University of California at Berkeley, first as an administrative assistant with the Full Option Science System and later as a financial analyst with budget and finance responsibilities, prosecutors said.

In her plea agreement, Ward admitted to using the university's travel system to arrange personal air travel for herself, family and friends, and to buying tickets that she sold to others at a profit.

She also admitted to using her university procurement card for personal transactions and processing vouchers for payments to herself and others. In total, prosecutors said she stole $389,948.57 between 2008 and 2014.

Ward was first charged in November. She pleaded guilty to all counts and has agreed to pay restitution.

Ward is currently out of custody on bail and is scheduled to be sentenced on June 21. Each count she pleaded guilty to carries a potential maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense, prosecutors said.

TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Bay City News Service contributed to this report.

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