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CHULA VISTA, Calif. – A former school employee accused of embezzling more than $53,000 from the Sweetwater Union High School District faces up to three years in prison if convicted, prosecutors said.

Danya Margarita Williams, 42, of Chula Vista, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to three felony counts of embezzlement. She is accused of stealing more than $53,000 in money orders between June 2016 and November 2017, according prosecutors.

Williams worked in the human resources department of the Sweetwater Union High School Distinct. She was responsible for processing money orders received from job applicants for fingerprint background checks. Each applicant pays between $52 to $75 for the cost of the background investigation using money orders. Williams altered the money orders and deposited them into her personal bank account, prosecutors allege.

“There were over 800 money orders, and these are money orders that job applicants paid the district to cover background checks,” Deputy District Attorney Kimball Denton said. “She would alter them and deposit them into her personal bank account.”

Job applicants who were not hired could request a refund. “That’s how they discovered it.  When some asked for the money back, they discovered that they were never deposited into an account,” Denton explained.

Williams, who had worked for the district for 17 years, resigned in late 2017 amid the allegations of embezzlement. But she wasn’t arrested until last week.

Her defense attorney, Kerry Armstrong, said he and his client are hoping to make a plea deal.

“She’s the nicest person.  I’m sure the Sweetwater District has a different opinion, but she’s extremely nervous and extremely scared,” Armstrong said.

Williams faces a maximum of three years in prison if she is convicted on all counts.