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Ex-Leader of Goodwill in Calif. Accused

May 30, 2003

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) _ The former president of a Goodwill Industries chapter pleaded innocent Friday to leading a ring that embezzled $26 million in donations over his nearly 20-year tenure.

Andrew Liersch, who led the Santa Clara County branch from 1976 to 1993, was arrested May 23 at Los Angeles International Airport on charges of money laundering and wire fraud.

Liersch, 67, was arriving from Guatemala. Officials there expelled him after learning of the charges. He has no attorney.

Prosecutors said Liersch and several other Goodwill managers hired more than 100 people to skim the most valuable items donated, then put money from sale of the items into foreign bank accounts.

Seven others already have been convicted in the case, which began six years ago. Liersch left the country after the investigation was launched.

A bail hearing for Liersch is set for Tuesday.

Goodwill Industries collects donated goods from the community and sells them in retail stores. Money from those sales is intended to provide job training to disabled and underprivileged people.

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