Sunday, March 6, 2016

Priest Accused of Embezzlement in Connecticut

Seymour police arrested a Roman Catholic priest and charged him with first degree larceny for embezzling money from St. Augustine Church, of which he is the former pastor.
According to information released by police, Father Honore Kombo turned himself over to police after learning of a warrant for his arrest.
First degree larceny is a Class-B felony, which is categorized with a dollar amount exceeding $20,000, according to Deputy Chief Paul Satkowski.
The police are currently not releasing the exact amount Rev. Kombo is charged with embezzling.
The police investigation began nearly a year ago in April 2015, when police received a complaint from the Hartford Roman Catholic Diocesan Corporation, which reported to detectives that there were concerns regarding the misappropriation of a bequest to the parish by a deceased parishioner.
The Hartford Roman Catholic Diocesan Corporation released a statement confirming that it had registered this complaint with the Seymour police “after discovering funds were missing from the parish.”
According to the Archdiocese of Hartford statement, Rev. Kombo had been on administrative leave from July through November, when he was notified that he was no longer able to serve as a priest in the Archdiocese.
“The Archdiocese, along [with] St. Augustine Church will continue to cooperate fully with the police and prosecutor,” the Archdiocese stated.
The parishioner had left five annuities to the church; however, only four were reported to church officials, according to police information.
“Father Kombo had filed the necessary paperwork requesting the proceeds for this annuity,” a release stated. “That [sic] on May 6, 2013, a large sum of money in the form of a check made payable to the St. Augustine Church was received by Father Kombo.”
Rev. Kombo reportedly opened a bank account at a local bank and deposited the annuity funds, then withdrew this money and deposited into a personal bank account in his name.
Police also reported they found that several other checks made out to the church had been deposited into the latter account.
During the investigation, police reportedly discovered that on October 18, 2013, Rev. Kombo used the church’s tax identification information to open a line of credit at a local bank. Funds from this account were further deposited into his personal bank account, police said.
St. Augustine’s Church could not be reached for comment.
Rev. Kombo, who was released after posting a $10,000 bond, was reportedly cooperative with detectives throughout the investigation.

Rev. Kombo is scheduled to appear at Derby Superior Court on Monday, March 14.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Northboro-Southboro school official accused of stealing up to $450K to fuel drug habit

Fueled by an addiction to painkillers and cocaine, the budget officer for the Northboro-Southboro School District stole as much as $450,000 from the district, authorities alleged Thursday in Westboro District Court.
Christopher P. Hoey, 34, was arrested Wednesday night at his home at 15 Great Road in Stow, court records show, after allegedly admitting that he began taking money with the intent to give it back but got in too deep.
“Hoey put a self-estimated value of his theft in the $200,000 to $400,000 range,” state troopers wrote in court documents. Judge Vito A. Virzi ordered Mr. Hoey held on $100,000 cash bail, writing in the bail order that Mr. Hoey is alleged to have stolen $450,000.
The thefts were reported to Worcester District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. by district Superintendent Christine M. Johnson, who reached out Wednesday, troopers said, after financial records from the past three months led her to believe that Mr. Hoey had stolen from the district’s petty cash account. Troopers contacted Mr. Hoey at his home, and after being read his Miranda rights, he agreed to answer questions on audio tape.
“In essence, Hoey admitted that he deposited reimbursement checks from the various school districts and vendors into the ‘petty cash’ account,” Trooper Michael A. Leo wrote. “He would then write checks out to cash.
“Hoey stated that the majority of the cash was used to support a drug addiction,” Trooper Leo wrote, with a “small portion” used for personal expenses.
Police said Mr. Hoey told them he had a “serious” addiction to Percocet – an opioid pain medication – and cocaine, and that he has “started rehabilitation.”
Trooper Leo said Mr. Hoey “stated that he started (stealing) with the intention of paying the money back but eventually realized that it would not happen due to the amount that he was taking.”
Trooper Leo wrote that Mr. Hoey identified about 30 checks drawn from the account since December 2015 worth roughly $150,000.
“Hoey further stated that he started this scheme approximately one year into his employment,” Trooper Leo wrote.
The trooper did not write in the document how long Mr. Hoey had been employed by the district. Ms. Johnson declined to answer any questions on the topic Thursday; Mr. Hoey’s LinkedIn page indicates he had worked as budget officer in the district for 3 years and 7 months. Before that, he listed himself as assistant town accountant in Leicester for two years; a document posted to the Leicester town website confirms he was assistant accountant there in 2012.
According to court documents, Mr. Hoey’s job in the district was to process incoming revenue, vendor payments and payroll.
Mr. Hoey is charged with larceny over $250 by common scheme, embezzlement by a public official and larceny over $250 by uttering a false check. The charge for embezzlement by a public official would need to be prosecuted in a higher court and carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years; the other charges both have penalties ranging from two to five years in prison and fines of up to $25,000.
In a statement Thursday announcing the charges, Mr. Early said his troopers and police from Northboro and Southboro continue to investigate the case.
“The school district assisted investigators and a complete forensic audit is underway,” Mr. Early said.
Mr. Hoey had not made bail as of Thursday afternoon, court officials confirmed. He is due back in court for further arraignment on April 1.
At her office Friday in Southboro, Ms. Johnson said she could not comment because the case is still under investigation. She referred all questions to Mr. Early’s office, including questions about whether there would be ramifications on the school budget and whether Mr. Hoey had been fired.
Mr. Hoey was listed as budget officer at about 1 p.m. on the district’s website; by 5 p.m., his name had been removed.
“Efforts are underway to recover these funds as well as to ascertain the manner in which these funds were allegedly embezzled,” Ms. Johnson wrote in an email to parents Thursday evening. “At the conclusion of our investigation, we will review findings and recommendations regarding procedural safeguards.”
In her email, Ms. Johnson called the information “unsettling and difficult to comprehend,” and noted the district conducts financial audits every year.
“In the last few days, it has become increasingly clear that no school district or business is immune from unscrupulous individuals who may engage in fraudulent activities,” Ms. Johnson wrote.
Northboro and Southboro have three school districts – a K-8 district for each town and a third for Algonquin Regional High School – and they share central office staff.
For fiscal 2016, the budget for all three districts combined was $61.6 million - $20.7 million for Algonquin, $18.9 million for Southboro K-8 and $22 million for Northboro K-8.
Northboro K-8 School Committee Chairman John Kane said Thursday night that he does not anticipate the thefts to affect his budget. Kathleen Harragan Polutchko, chairwoman of the regional School Committee, did not immediately return a call Thursday evening, while Southboro K-8 School Committee Chairman Paul H. Desmond did not appear to have a working listed number.
A message left at a phone number listed in court papers for Mr. Hoey was not returned Thursday. A call to a listed number for his home rang repeatedly without reaching a machine.
Online records from the Stow assessor’s office value Mr. Hoey’s single-family home at $286,400

Friday, March 4, 2016

Former Stockton Colts treasurer pleads guilty to embezzlement

 The former treasurer of the Stockton Junior Colts Hockey Club pleaded guilty Monday to embezzling $27,205 from the organization from 2012-14 and has paid full restitution, according to the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office.
Jennifer Lee Hicks, 35, was charged late last year with embezzling funds during a stint as treasurer that ran from June 2012 to June 2014.
According to the court, Hicks returned $10,000 before charges were filed and repaid an additional $18,655 on Monday, with $1,450 going to the costs of an audit.
Judge Ronald Northup placed Hicks on three years’ probation, sentenced her to 30 days in jail and levied additional court fines Monday.
A felony charge against Hicks was reduced to a misdemeanor because of her cooperation, payments, lack of a past criminal record and her use of retirement funds to pay restitution, the court said.
According to the original complaint filed against Hicks, her embezzling began to come to light in May 2014 when she decided not to seek another term as the Colts’ treasurer. Her replacement as treasurer was the first to begin to realize the existence of financial improprieties, the complaint said.
District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar recommends organizations establish finance and audit committees to review all records on a monthly basis. Deputy District Attorney Stephen Taylor said insurance policies covering embezzlement are a valuable, inexpensive method of protection

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Ex-secretary sentenced for embezzling from San Pedro Catholic school

A woman was sentenced to 150 days of Caltrans service and five years probation for stealing Scrip fundraising gift cards from a Catholic school in San Pedro, where she worked as a secretary, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced Friday.
Kimberly Rauch, 49, also was ordered to pay $1,600 in restitution to Holy Trinity School and was barred from holding any job positions or roles in which she can handle an organization’s finances, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
Rauch pleaded guilty last week to a felony count of grand theft by embezzlement.
School officials notified law enforcement in January 2014 after finding a pattern in the disappearance of Scrip fundraising gift cards, according to Deputy District Attorney Brian Kang.
After months of investigation, authorities determined that Rauch — who worked at the school for two years — had taken the gift cards between January 2013 and January 2014. She was charged in July 2014.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Can I protect my business from embezzlement?

According to The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, internal fraud costs companies 5% of revenue each year—that’s a lot if you’re a small business. Unfortunately, studies also show 87% of employees who steal are first-time offenders. Most of the fraud occurs with employees working in finance, bookkeeping or accounting departments, but it’s a good idea to put some checks in place for all employees, no matter their position.
  • Have clear procedures and policies when it comes to handling money. Limit who has access to bank accounts and checks and if your business uses cash registers, have employees use a password-protected system so you know who was using the technology every minute of the day.
  • Don’t let any one employee work completely alone and have sole responsibility for handling funds. Cross-train employees so you know more than one person can tell what another employee is doing.
  • Don’t just hand over “the books” to an employee and forget about it. Make sure you look over the bookkeeping at random times. Your bookkeeper should know he or she could be held accountable at any time.
  • Ask your IT person about ways to get warnings of potential fraud before it happens. For example, can you get alerts when employees access files that have nothing to do with their jobs? Make it a company policy that employees shouldn’t use unapproved programs or apps.
  • If you let your employees work from home or if they are mobile, you can have your IT person set up monitoring tools on any device used for business.
  • Hire an outside auditor to periodically go over your accounts and make sure everything is in order.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Parents fight to keep school open despite embezzlement allegations

 Parents and students filled the auditorium of an area charter school Thursday night, fighting to keep the facility open after one of its founders was accused of stealing more than half a million dollars from it.
Parents are frustrated that the Latin Academy, a charter middle school on Metropolitan Parkway in southwest Atlanta, is on the verge of closing less than four years after it was founded. Several students presented letters to the school's board of directors, pleading with them to find a way to keep the school operating.
One of the founders of Latin Academy was Christopher Clemons, who also served as the financial director. Clemons is now under investigation, accused by the board of directors of stealing more than $600,000 from the school for personal use.
Clemons has not been charged with a crime. Police began investigating him after administrators reported the missing money, claiming that Clemons and one other employee were the only ones with access to the money.
As a result of the missing funds, Atlanta Public School officials put the school on probation.
During Thursday night's meeting, it was revealed that Latin Academy administrators did not secure enough funding in the form of grants and state funding to keep it operational.
Parents at the meeting were visibly upset and made their frustrations clear.
"You have failed these students, this community and their opportunity and right to social and educational equality," said one man in attendance.
Another attendee of the meeting said school officials are out of touch with parents with students enrolled at the facility.
"Every day, kids of the same color are laying dead in the street, or they're in the news because they're robbing somebody," said the woman. "You don't live on this side of town so you don't see where we come from."
After hearing the public comments, the board of directors decided to postpone the closure vote until next month.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Community rallies to support YEPAW after alleged embezzlement

The youth arts organization YEPAW has long shared the message that God can help people overcome anything.
Now it’s showing that it takes that message to heart.
In the wake of accusations that a former administrator stole more than $97,000 from the program, YEPAW leaders and supporters took the microphone at a community rally Sunday to promise the organization would prevail.
And the young performers underscored that message with their voices.
“Oh, how wonderful it is, Jesus promised he’ll take care of me,” sang about 60 teenage choir members in the opening number. Their joyful voices reverberated in the circular sanctuary of West Akron’s Mount Calvary Baptist Church. Many in the audience rose to their feet, swaying, clapping and singing along.
YEPAW — Youth Excellence Performing Arts Workshop — is both a performing arts and mentoring program. It uses the arts to engage middle and high school youth while it helps them build life skills and encourages them to pursue excellence, said its founder and artistic director, the Rev. Leslie Parker Barnes.
Last month its former executive director, Alexandra (Wright) Thomas, was charged with identity fraud and theft for allegedly opening a credit card account in Barnes’ name to siphon money from the organization.
Community members filled the sanctuary for Sunday’s rally to encourage the young people with their presence and donations. They cheered the performance, tossed money into offering baskets and purchased T-shirts bearing the hashtag message, #YEPAWSTRONG.
The event was a fundraiser, but it had a greater purpose, Barnes said before the rally.
“More than anything, [the purpose is] to charge these young people and tell them they are amazing,” she said. “Dreams really do come true.”
The alleged theft was never mentioned directly during the event, but the message was clear: YEPAW is determined to overcome the financial setback.
“The leadership is still strong. No question about it, God’s hand is still strong,” Kyle Earley, a minister at the church, told the spirited crowd. “Nothing can stop them, because God has already blessed them.”
The rally had a feeling of celebration, and the emphasis was on the impact YEPAW makes in its young participants’ lives. “I don’t know where I’d be,” one young member said in a short video shown during the rally.
The biggest ovation of the night went to Barnes, who is recovering from a fractured ankle and spoke from a wheelchair.
She promised YEPAW would continue to build on its mission of instilling purpose in young people and turning them into leaders.
“I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that YEPAW is the Lord’s,” she said, her voice rising above the applause. “He started it, and he’s gonna finish it.”
A Believing the Dream Campaign has been started on the crowd-funding website Go Fund Me to collect donations in support of YEPAW. Contributions can be made at