As she presided over a nonprofit organization that provides food, shelter and other services to the homeless, Leona Jull was using a work-issued credit card to buy tools, electronics and satellite-dish service for her personal use, according to documents on file in Yolo Superior Court.
The former executive director of Woodland’s Fourth & Hope (formerly known as the Yolo Wayfarer Center) has pleaded not guilty to the allegations and is due back in court Nov. 19 for a preliminary hearing, where a judge will determine whether there is sufficient evidence for Jull to stand trial on a felony grand theft charge.
Jull, 46, resigned from the organization in March, five months before the Woodland Police Department announced her arrest on suspicion of racking up about $30,000 in charges on a Visa card “that had been entrusted to her as part of her employment duties,” Lt. Anthony Cucchi said.
Instead of job-related purchases, however, Jull is believed to have used the credit card for personal items such as a Wii video game system, furniture, home-improvement materials and a marine battery for her boyfriend’s boat, Woodland police Detective Greg Elliott wrote in a search-warrant affidavit filed in June.
“The fact that these items are not accounted for and/or have no clear business purpose for Fourth & Hope show the items were fraudulently purchased and the credit entrusted to Jull embezzled,” Elliott alleged in his request to search Jull’s Arbuckle home.
Jull’s defense attorney, Robbin Coker, could not be reached for comment Monday.
A request for comment from Fourth & Hope on Monday was directed to Lisa A. Baker, CEO of Yolo County Housing, which earlier this month entered into an agreement to provide executive services for Fourth & Hope for at least the next 18 months.
While she declined to comment on the Jull investigation, Baker said the case has spurred the agency to look into all of its policies and procedures, “ensuring we have good checks and balances within the organization.”
According to the affidavit, Jull first came under suspicion in early 2013, when Fourth & Hope’s board of directors was alerted to questionable purchases on some of the organization’s accounts. These included not only the credit-card purchases, but also a cell phone for the daughter of Jull’s live-in boyfriend that appeared on the agency’s AT&T account.
By then, Jull had been employed at Fourth & Hope for 12 years, eight of them as its executive director. She was placed on administrative leave and ordered to surrender her credit card, Elliott wrote. Board president Jean Jordan contacted Woodland police and turned over three years’ worth of Jull’s credit-card statements.
“In investigating all listed purchases and accompanying receipts, I located a number of purchases that appeared to be for personal use or purchases for items whose whereabouts could not be determined through searches of Fourth & Hope offices or interviews with employees or supervisors,” Elliott wrote.
Those purchases included payments for Direct TV satellite service — which Fourth & Hope’s offices do not have — a traffic citation fine issued to Jull, and repairs to her personal vehicle, the affidavit says.
Conducted on June 18, the search of Jull’s Arbuckle house yielded the discovery of some of the allegedly fraudulent purchases, including a matching couch and chaise lounge set, clothing, a marine battery, an inflatable tube for recreational boating and wall-mounted tool racks, according to the warrant return document.
Detectives were unable to determine the whereabouts of the other items listed in the affidavit, including multiple tools and electronics, Cucchi said Monday.
What police allegedly did find proved enough for the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office to request a warrant for Jull’s arrest, however, and she was taken into custody on Aug. 13. She remains free on $20,000 bail while her court case is pending.
— Reach Lauren Keene at [email protected] or 530-747-8048. Follow her on Twitter at @laurenkeene