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A former Buffalo Red Cross caseworker pleaded guilty Monday to stealing almost $16,000 from the Greater Buffalo Chapter by faking vouchers to help victims of fires.

Maxine Giles, 57, who went to work for the Buffalo chapter after a 20-year career as a teacher in the Buffalo Public Schools, pleaded guilty as charged to the highest count of a three-count indictment for thefts between early December 2003 and last May 29, when she was fired.

Giles, of Spring Street, must repay $15,692.55 to the Red Cross. She remains free on her own recognizance, pending sentencing July 12.

Though the judge indicated she is likely to place Giles on probation, court officials confirmed that she could face up to seven years in prison on her plea to a charge of third-degree grand larceny.

John C. Doscher, chief of Erie County District Attorney Frank J. Clark's White-Collar Crime Bureau, said after the court proceeding that Giles was fired shortly after a lady called the relief agency last May asking "to speak to the person selling the (dispersing orders)" issued by Red Cross caseworkers to fire victims.

Giles had drafted and cashed the dispersing orders to fires that never occurred. After her firing, the case was turned over to the district attorney's office.

Because Giles pleaded guilty to the highest criminal charge lodged against her by a grand jury, prosecutors agreed to drop charges of forgery and filing a false statement.

Giles has not said what she did with the money, Doscher said.


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