Thousands embezzled from Mothers for Peace, authorities allege

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The executive director of ECOSLO has been accused of embezzling more than $31,000 from Mothers for Peace, where she served as treasurer for several years.

Arroyo Grande resident Morgan Rafferty pleaded not guilty earlier this month to a felony charge of grand theft. She is suspected of taking money from the San Luis Obispo-based anti-nuclear-power nonprofit.

Rafferty has been the executive director of ECOSLO — the Environmental Center of San Luis Obispo — since July 2006.

“I’m innocent,” Rafferty said. “I will just have to trust the judicial system to work this out.”

Mothers for Peace is made up of all volunteers; it began as an anti-Vietnam War activist group in the late 1960s, according to its Web site.

In recent years, much of the work of Mothers for Peace has focused on what members say are safety and security issues concerning Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant.

Rafferty’s alleged embezzlement took place in 2007 and 2008, according to court documents filed by the Arroyo Grande Police Department, the investigating agency.

Board members of Mothers for Peace claim that Rafferty wrote some checks to herself but said in documents that the money was paid to others for services and activities.

Those include a check for $13,500 that she allegedly paid to herself and claimed was paid to an attorney for Mothers for Peace.

The Mothers for Peace attorney claimed in a police report that Rafferty’s accounting of seven checks didn’t match the lawyer’s recorded dates and amounts.

Another check for $3,500 allegedly was made payable to ECOSLO, but according to Rafferty’s accounting went to the Institute for Resource and Security Studies, a nonprofit policy research organization, the police report alleges.

Rafferty is no longer associated with Mothers for Peace, and the organization has a new treasurer, organization officials said.

Three people now have access to view how the organization’s finances are directed, said Liz Apfelberg, the organization’s new treasurer.

Rafferty is scheduled to appear in court Feb. 18 for a pre-preliminary hearing in Judge John Trice’s courtroom.