Ex-VETS, Inc. CEO convicted

caines | 4/4/2013, 5:30 a.m.

Charles Leon Cutler, 60, former CEO of Veterans Employment Transition Services [VETS], Inc., was convicted last Saturday by a Miami-Dade County [M-DC] jury of stealing grant money from both the City of Miami and M-DC. A joint investigation by the M-DC State Attorneys Office and the Office of the Inspector General revealed that Cutler had diverted funds for his own personal use that were intended to benefit military veterans and the unemployed. Cutler was found guilty on two counts of grand theft and will be sentenced July 18th. He faces up to 10 years in prison. Between 2006 and 2008, he served as the head of VETS which assisted veterans transition into civilian life. The nonprofit has since ceased operation. In 2007, the Miami Community Redevelopment Agency [CRA] awarded VETS a $100,000 grant to help create the Hospitality Training Institute that was to be housed at the Greater Bethel AME Community Church. The CRA later moved the contract to Miami Dade College. Today the program is successfully helping inner-city residents receive training and jobs in the hospitality industry. Cutler was instructed to return money that remained from the grant as part of a new policy related to grant restructuring. Instead, he wrote $4,000 in checks to himself and over $2,000 in checks to family and friends. When the theft was discovered by CRA officials, he then diverted over $6,000 from a M-DC Office of Community and Economic Development [OCED] grant to repay the CRA. Cutler also withdrew $4,000 in OCED funds from ATM machines for his own use. Cutler must still go to trial for allegedly stealing an additional $13,000 in County grant money that was intended to fund a 2008 veterans summit. The event, for which he said he paid, did occur but records show it was funded by the Liberty City Trust and catered by the City of Miami. The people of M-DC determined that [Mr.] Cutler violated the trust placed in him when he put money intended for veterans and the poor into his own pocket, said State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle. Citizens of this community will not tolerate such actions. Inspector General Christopher Mazzella added the following: Whenever funds are stolen from programs intended to train those in need of jobs in our community, it is not just the unemployed but our community at large that suffers. Miami Times staff report