Friday, August 29, 2014

ABSS secretary charged with embezzlement in North Carolina

An Alamance-Burlington School System secretary has been charged with embezzling from the middle school where she worked.

According to the Mebane Police Department, Ruby Horner Blalock, 47, of 420 Hoover Road, Mebane, was charged with two felony counts of embezzlement by a public official or trustee on Thursday.

Blalock, who was the lead secretary at Hawfields Middle School in Mebane, allegedly embezzled $650 in football camp funds and $580 in cheerleading camp and sponsorship funds that belonged to the school system, according to an arrest warrant.

She is also accused of embezzling $732.62 in payroll time between May 1 and Aug. 20 by submitting 44.67 hours of work on her time sheet that she didn’t work.

Lt. Jeremiah Richardson said Mebane police were contacted by the ABSS central office with concerns about Blalock’s submitted time sheets and “issues with some fundraising accounts” at the school.

Police said as part of her job, Blalock was responsible for depositing some of the money collected through school functions. She allegedly never deposited $1,230 in funds.

According to ABSS public information officer Jenny Faulkner, Blalock resigned from her position Aug. 22. She was the lead secretary at Hawfields Middle School from August 2009 until Aug. 22, 2014, with an annual salary of $27,920.04. From March 1999 until May 2006, she held the position of lead secretary at Williams High School.

After being interviewed by officers from the Mebane Police Department, Blalock was later informed charges had been filed and turned herself in to police.

She posted a $2,500 cash bond Thursday.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Bank Won't Provide Records for Investigation

Three orthodox Jewish congregations claim KeyBank won't give them access to their own accounts to investigate a suspected $1 million embezzlement, unless a judge orders the bank to do it.
     The congregations claim that KeyBank NA, part of Ohio-based KeyCorp, acknowledged the existence of the accounts - despite the groups' lack of account numbers or other records - but refused access without a court order.
     "KeyBank took the inconceivable position that notwithstanding that the congregations are the named holders and owners of its KeyBank accounts, it would not provide the congregations with copies of their own bank records," the plaintiffs claim in Rockland County Supreme Court.
     Other banks similarly contacted "substantially complied," the plaintiffs say.
     The congregations are based in the hamlet of Nanuet, about 45 minutes northwest of Manhattan in Rockland County.
     Each of the three - Congregation and Kollel Noam Elimelech Litzensks, Cong. Lizensk, and Congregation Noam E. Lizensk - is a synagogue or school formed by Rabbi Joseph Mayer, the grand rebbe of the Lizensk sect, a Chassidic group, according to the lawsuit.
     Each of the congregations had one or more accounts with KeyBank, the complaint states, with the Key branch in New City - the Rockland County seat - as their home branch.
     The lawsuit says the congregations "for many years" employed an administrator who oversaw their day-to-day finances and had signatory powers on the bank accounts.
     Recently, though, the congregations "came to the terrible discovery that the administrator had in all likelihood embezzled in excess of $1 million from the congregations," the complaint states.
     He was fired immediately and an internal probe was launched "to confirm the embezzlement and determine the extent of the theft and the damage to the congregations," according to the lawsuit.
     The congregations hired an investigator, attorneys and an accountant. The probe was complicated by actions the administrator took "to hide his theft," including the destruction of financial books and records, the plaintiffs say.
     "Indeed, the administrator did not even leave over a single document or record from which the congregations could obtain the various account numbers for the congregations' accounts at KeyBank," the lawsuit states.
     Despite the administrator's actions, Key acknowledged the accounts. The bank also indicated that the administrator had changed the accounts' addresses to his own, the lawsuit states.
     Rabbi Mayer, accompanied by the hired investigator, visited various banks seeking account records, the plaintiffs say. But he was turned away by Key.
     "KeyBank's refusal is improper and without merit," the plaintiffs say.
     "Without intervention from the court, the congregations will be unable to obtain access to their accounts and their account documents."
     The plaintiffs want a judge to declare them the lawful owners of the Key accounts, and to order KeyCorp and KeyBank to hand over all documents and records to them and no one else. They want any old signatories removed and new account signatories accepted.
     They also want Key to pay them what's left, "upon the execution and delivery to the bank of a properly executed withdrawal slip by the congregations."
     Therese Myer, vice president and director of public relations for Key in Albany, said the bank does not comment on pending litigation.
     KeyCorp was based in Albany before a 1990s merger moved its headquarters to Cleveland. The company has more than 1,000 branches in 12 states.
     Manhattan attorneys David Wolkenstein, of Lauterbach Garfinkel Damast & Hollander, and Frederick Sosinsky represent the plaintif

Ex-Hebron superintendent arraigned on embezzlement charge

The former Hebron superintendent accused of stealing about $15,000 of school funds had her case transferred during arraignment Tuesday to the part of Vernon Superior Court that handles the most serious matters.
Eleanor S. Cruz, 63, who is facing a first-degree larceny charge, made a brief appearance in court, where Judge James T. Graham transferred her case to Part A for Sept. 12.

Cruz stands accused of using school system-issued credit cards for personal expenses, such as clothing, meals, gasoline, and shipping things out of state to her family, according to state police. Most of the purchases were done in 2012.

Fairfield police: High school football coach arrested for embezzlement in California

The football coach at Vanden High School in Fairfield was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of stealing thousands of dollars from athletic fundraisers, local police say.
The alleged activities of Levon Haynes, 42, were brought to the attention of his high school's police school resource officer on Aug. 12, Fairfield police Lt. Stephen Crane said.
Major crimes detectives took on the case and following their investigation, Crane said search warrants were served at two Fairfield addresses Tuesday. Haynes was arrested without incident during the search on the 2900 block of Shasta Drive.
The coach, who is also a Vanden campus monitor, was booked into Solano County Jail for embezzlement, Crane said.
The investigation continues. Detectives did not give a more precise dollar figure of the amount Havnes is suspected of stealing nor how the funds were taken.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Volunteer gets probation for embezzling thousands from Romeoville church

A volunteer treasurer was sentenced Monday to four years probation for embezzling thousands of of dollars from a Romeoville church.
Deborah Suchomel, 52, pleaded guilty to one count of theft in May. On Monday, she brought a check to court for $26,987.26 in restitution to the church - the amount of misappropriated money that could be proven by audits, according to Assistant Will County State's Attorney Chris Messina.

Police previously estimated Suchomel took more than $106,000 while serving as council secretary and preschool bookkeeper for Good Shepherd Lutheran Church between October 2005 and April 2013.

Judge Carla Alessio-Policandriotes also banned Suchomel from any contact with Good Shepherd, assigned her $7,000 bond to be used for court and probation costs, and ordered her to complete 480 hours of community service.

"The defendant must notify any nonprofit group (she approaches for community service) up front that she has been convicted of theft from a nonprofit. I'm not going to set up another victim here," Alessio-Policandriotes said.

"I'm so sorry. I'm just sorry," Suchomel sobbed before she was sentenced.

The Rev. Suzanne Anderson-Hurdle said she and her congregation supported the plea deal so they can move on from "the betrayal" by her one-time close friend.

Suchomel had written checks to herself for cash, and the embezzlement was discovered after the IRS contacted the church about unpaid taxes.

"I was led to believe it was limited to the preschool, but (it turned out to be) all our financial accounts, including some that had been closed for several years," Anderson-Hurdle said.

Anderson-Hurdle, Good Shepherd pastor for 17 years, said dealing with the investigation, financial problems and betrayal has caused her to neglect other areas of her ministry.

"The strain made me pray over taking a leave of ministry. I trust people less. I trust my instincts less. I question what I know about my church, my faith, my God,' Anderson-Hurdle said.

"The outlook our church will survive is not good," she told Alessio-Policandriotes.
 The pastor of a church where a volunteer treasurer stole more than $100,000 is satisfied with the sentence issued Monday.

The Rev. Suzanne Anderson-Hurdle said Good Shepherd Lutheran Church “looks forward to moving on” since Deborah Suchomel was sentenced to four years probation and 480 hours of community service after pleading guilty to theft.
Suchomel also brought a check to court for nearly $27,000 – the final amount agreed upon by her attorney and prosecutors, Anderson-Hurdle said.
“She had already made other payments totaling $56,000 that had been [intermittently] taken and put back, but that did not include any interest or tax penalties,” the pastor said.
Investigators earlier estimated Suchomel, 52, obtained $106,000 between October 2005 and April 2013 while serving as bookkeeper and church council secretary. Suchomel would write checks to herself for cash and the embezzlement wasn’t discovered until last year after the IRS contacted the church about unpaid taxes.
“This was a betrayal against all of us in the church and against me by a close friend,” Anderson-Hurdle said. “I’m very glad we’ll no longer have this taking up so much of the time we should spend on other things.”

Priest indicted on embezzlement charges in Massachusetts

A Roman Catholic priest has been indicted on charges that he embezzled more than $230,000 from the Northborough parish where he served as pastor.

The Rev. Stephen Gemme, former pastor of St. Bernadette, was indicted on multiple counts of larceny by a common scheme over $250.

He is scheduled to be arraigned in Worcester Superior Court on Wednesday.

The Worcester Diocese announced last year that Gemme had stolen from two church and school accounts since at least 2009. It went undetected until a member of the school's advisory board flagged a financial irregularity in a school account and informed Bishop Robert McManus.

The diocese says Gemme immediately acknowledged a gambling problem and sought treatment.

Gemme's lawyer says she cannot comment because she has not seen the evidence yet.


Monday, August 25, 2014

Treasurer arrested in Hillsboro PTO embezzlement case

The Williamson County Sheriff's Office has arrested a Thompson's Station woman on charges of stealing thousands from the Hillsboro School Parent Teacher Organization.

Billie Sue Barker, 44, was arrested Friday and is being charged with theft of more than $10,000. Her bond is set at $50,000.

Barker was the treasurer of the elementary and middle school PTO for the past year. More than $20,000 is believed to be missing from the PTO's account at a local bank. A Williamson County School District internal auditor is assisting to determine the actual amount, officials said.

The money was slated for the purchase of laptops for students at the kindergarten through eighth-grade school, located near Leiper's Fork. The discovery of the missing money was made last week when a PTO check intended to purchase 23 laptops bounced at a local bank.


"It's not right to steal money from kids," said Jennifer Smith, PTO president-elect, who said much of the money was raised during the school's Barnaroo Fall Fest. "We have safeguards in place, and (this person) circumvented every one of them."

Unfortunately, the temptation to steal is real, and it happens more than people want to believe, said Jim Wilson, a certified public accountant and certified fraud examiner. His Bellevue firm assisted in the case of a woman who stole $150,000 from an elementary school's parent-teacher association in Metro Nashville Public Schools.

In that case, Julie Buchanan was convicted in 2007 for taking money from the Granbery Elementary School PTA fund meant for a student at the school who was dying of cancer.

Schools are often a target because there are no controls in place, Wilson says.

"Here's the money. It's very tempting to go get a check and write it out," he adds. "There are a lot of tricks to the trade; they seem to be multifarious. It comes out quite often that schools, churches and the elderly — where someone puts their trust in someone, and they take liberties."

If there is a silver lining to the situation, Superintendent Mike Looney says insurance may help the the parent organization recover some of the mon