UPDATE: White House Reacts to Guest's Criminal Past

By: Jessica Jaglois Email
By: Jessica Jaglois Email

July 29, 2010

(CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA) -- In his daily press briefing Thursday afternoon, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the White House would have never invited Leslie Macko to pose with President Obama had they known about her criminal past.

"Had that type of information been made available," said Gibbs. "She would not have participated in the event here."

Macko, a Charlottesville resident, stood next to President Obama as his example of the need to extend jobless benefits.

"We need to extend unemployment compensation benefits for women like Leslie Macko, who lost her job at a fitness center last year, and has been looking for work ever since. Because she's eligible for only a few more weeks of unemployment, she's doing what she never thought she'd have to do. Not at this point, anyway. She's turning to her father for financial support," Obama said in his speech at the White House on July 19th.

Macko was once employed at ACAC Fitness and Wellness Center in the Albemarle Square Shopping Center. However, in April 2009, a month after being found guilty of prescription drug fraud, she lost her job as an aesthetician in the spa at ACAC.

ACAC CEO Greg Wells told the Newsplex that Macko was not terminated nor discharged because of any illegal activity, but Wells would not comment on the condition of her termination.

CBS19 also learned Thursday that Macko has had more than one run-in with the law. In June of 2007, Macko was charged with grand larceny. The charge was reduced in court to petit larceny, and she was sentenced to two years probation.

Press Secretary Gibbs was also asked if the White House performed a background check on Macko before her appearance with the President.

"I don't know the specifics," Gibbs said. 'But it's safe to say, had we known [about the charges against her] she wouldn't have been here."

In a written statement to Fox News, a Secret Service spokesman says, "We do not comment or confirm the existence of anyone's criminal history or lack thereof. Anyone who is granted access to the White House or any venue that we protect does so only after an assessment of dangerousness is made."

The Legal Aid Justice Center, which represented Leslie Macko in her claim for unemployment benefits, released this statement to the Newsplex Thursday evening:

"Between March 2005 and April 2009, Ms. Macko was employed as an aesthetician by ACAC. When she was terminated in April 2009, Ms. Macko applied for unemployment benefits. On June 15, 2009, Ms. Macko was determined to be qualified for unemployment benefits. ACAC appealed that determination. After a hearing on the merits of Ms. Macko's case, the original determination was affirmed on September 14, 2009.

Ms. Macko was convicted of two unrelated misdemeanors. Throughout the unemployment proceedings, ACAC never alleged that Ms. Macko's termination was related to those cases."

CBS19 contacted Leslie Macko about the conviction, and she declined to comment until she speaks with her attorney.


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