A Time magazine article reports that a woman who had been charged with embezzlement was put in charge of grants and donations as a research administrator at the University of California at Berkley’s School of Public Health. The woman was fired after the school discovered she was stealing, but she may have taken as much as $90,000. The stolen money was  used to pay tuition at a school her children attended.


Here’s the background. In 2003, Sonia Chante Waters was an assistant at UC Berkley. In 2004 she began working for The Hartford, a financial and insurance company. She was fired after it was discovered she had been taking company funds. In 2009, she pled guilty to embezzlement. She agreed to pay The Hartford $32,000 and was sentenced to three years of probation.


After she lost her job at The Hartford, in 2007 Waters returned to UC Berkley, and soon after she was convicted, she received a promotion in which she administered “millions of dollars in grants and private donations.” The Time article reports, “Waters was fired in April from her nearly $73,000-a-year position after the university put her on paid leave in March. An April 9 letter from the university informing her of the decision cited “dishonesty, theft and misappropriation of university property” and noted Waters had admitted writing university checks to pay about $8,500 toward each child’s approximately $25,000-per-year tuition at École Bilingue.”


On May 19, Alameda County prosecutors charged Waters with nine felony counts of grand theft and embezzlement. Waters is also accused of “stealing university money to pay for more than $8,800 in catering, $28,000 in computers and phones, nearly $39,000 worth of gift cards and $8,000 in other expenses.”


How did the school not find out about this? It appears that a background check, supposedly mandatory, was not done prior to her promotion, and the Waters did not share the information about her conviction to her employer. The university’s policy is clear that Waters should not have been hired for the administrator position due to her criminal conviction for theft.


A university official stated that the school is investigating why the background check did not take place and if other employees had not undergone background screening.