UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ The U.N. Children's Fund has fired three employees in Kenya for fraud in the largest case of embezzlement and mismanagement in the organization's history, UNICEF said Monday.

The three were among 17 staff members suspended in a probe of financial irregularities in the Kenya office, said Emily Booker, a spokeswoman for UNICEF. Staffers have been accused of funneling money to phony aid groups and falsifying medical and expense charges.

UNICEF officials said it is unclear how much money was involved. Initial reports said less than $100,000, although it was not clear if that figure changed as the investigation expanded.

In a statement to the UNICEF board on Monday, acting director Richard Jolly said it was the worst case of financial and administrative mismanagement UNICEF has ever known.

Later this month, the organization is to release findings of an audit investigating the claims of mismanagement and embezzlement. Until then, UNICEF is not releasing the names of the staff involved.

Seven staff members, including the past and present heads of the Kenya office, were suspended with pay after a November internal audit uncovered irregularities.

The audit was expanded earlier this year and an additional 10 staff members, all Kenyans, were suspended without pay and accused of mismanagement and fraud.

The three who were fired were among the 10 suspended without pay. UNICEF officials have said some of the 10 were accused of falsifying expense and medical claims, but gave no details on the charges against the three dismissed.

UNICEF, with an annual budget of some $1 billion, feeds and provides water and medical aid to children in 140 countries.