LOS ANGELES, Calif. — A Los Angeles County probation officer charged with conspiracy, grand theft and perjury in an alleged $1.6 million child care fraud scheme pleaded not guilty today.

Frank Elliott Boyd III, 48, his 44-year-old ex-girlfriend and four more co-defendants are accused of urging parents to falsify documents in order to cheat state and county agencies out of child care money.

The girlfriend, whose name has not yet been disclosed and who may still be at large, masterminded the scam, prosecutors said.

The group allegedly set up home-based licensed child care centers and recruited parents to apply for subsidies through the state Department of Education and county Department of Public Social Services using the name Crystal Stairs, Inc., but child care services were never provided, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

In return for submitting false applications, employment verification forms and child care attendance documents, the parents allegedly received kickbacks from the defendants.

If convicted of all charges, Boyd, a Redondo Beach resident, faces more than 20 years in state prison.

The Probation Department, which has been dogged by employee misconduct, has already put Boyd on unpaid leave, according to Assistant Chief Probation Officer Don Meyer.

Boyd is just one of 38 probation employees arrested this year, Meyer said. Eleven of those arrests were for suspicion of drunken driving.

“It’s an embarrassment to the organization,” Meyer said, but added that “the process for screening employees has changed pretty dramatically.

“It’s a new day here,” Meyer said.

Of 500 candidates vetted for recent job openings, only 44 people made it through the department’s “much more rigorous” screening, which includes a polygraph test in addition to background checks, according to the assistant chief. More measures, including an online test, are being added as the department looks to hire another 400 to 500 peace officers.

Seven probation employees resigned in 2013 after being arrested and five have been terminated because of criminal activity, according to department records.

Boyd’s co-defendants Kevin Twain Williams and Ashley Nicole Moore have also pleaded not guilty. Nikita Monique Harrell is scheduled to appear in court tomorrow.

Warrants were issued for the remaining two people charged in the case, but the District Attorney’s Office could not immediately confirm whether they were under arrest this afternoon.

Boyd is jailed in lieu of $420,000 bail, according to the Sheriff’s Department website. He is due back in court on Wednesday for a bail hearing.