Paso woman convicted of fraud over falsified grant application

A Paso Robles woman will be sentenced next month on three felony counts of defrauding the government by falsifying an application for more than $35 million in grant money, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Jean Michele Cross, 59, was found guilty in June of mail fraud, forging a writing to obtain money from the U.S., and making false statements.

She faces a maximum penalty of 35 years in federal prison and is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Virginia A. Phillips on Aug. 29.

In March 2007, Cross prepared and filed an application for a grant administered by the California Department of Education on behalf of the Indio Youth Task Force, a nonprofit, community-based program in the Coachella Valley. The grant application — for more than $35 million — contained forged signatures and other alterations and misstatements, prosecutors said.

Cross concealed a 15 percent fee she had negotiated in exchange for submitting a successful grant application, according to prosecutors.

She also forged terms schools districts had not agreed to, including a contribution by the Desert Sands Unified School District in Riverside County of about $150,000 to programs being funded by the grant, prosecutors said.