LOS ANGELES, Calif.–The founder of a Los Angeles-based nonprofit agency for African refugees was sentenced Friday to three years already served in custody in connection with her no contest plea to misappropriation of public funds and three other felony counts.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lance Ito said he would rule later on the issue of restitution in the case of Nigisti “Nikki” Tesfai, 58, who founded the African Community Resource Center.
Tesfai pleaded no contest last October to one count each of misappropriation of public funds, attempting to file a false or forged instrument, conspiracy and filing a false tax return.
Tesfai’s attorney Robert E. Haberer said after the hearing that his client pleaded no contest “because her accounting was sloppy.”
“It could be perceived as an attempt at wrongdoing … in theory,”the defense attorney said. “If she lost in trial, the penalties could be very severe.”
Tesfai–a Beverly Hills resident at the time who had been profiled in Oprah Winfrey’s magazine O in January 2002 for her work in helping to resettle refugees–was charged in 2007 in connection with allegations that she misappropriated public money that the center received from various government agencies.