Thursday, May 3, 2018

Witness list in UNM athletics embezzlement case has familiar names

The former University of New Mexico men’s basketball staffer indicted last month on a felony charge of embezzling for what the school alleges was his bilking the school out of about $63,000 more than two years ago did not appear in court this week as originally planned.
Instead, as is common for an out-of-state defendant accused of a white-collar crime, 35-year-old Cody Hopkins waived his arraignment on one felony charge of embezzlement and five counts of forgery.
Court documents show his Albuquerque attorney, Paul Kennedy, filed for the waiver of appearance and signed off on his standard conditions of release on Friday – conditions that include Hopkins being released on personal recognizance, being allowed to remain in Texas, where he lives and works at Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas, not consuming alcohol or drugs, maintaining weekly contact with his attorneys and avoiding contact with “the alleged victim or any witnesses who may testify in this case.”
Meanwhile, the initial witness list the state submitted to the court reads like a who’s who from UNM press clippings of the past several years.
Potential witnesses the District Attorney’s Office has indicated it may call at evidentiary hearings or trial include former Lobos men’s basketball coach Craig Neal, who was Hopkins’ boss; current UNM Board of Regents members Marron Lee and Bradley Hosmer and former Regent Jack Fortner (all members of the Regents’ Audit Committee); current and former Lobo assistant coaches who the state claims had their names forged or witnessed Hopkins’ actions; and Daniel Libit, the independent journalist whose website NMFishbowl.com published an article featuring several Hopkins statements about the case.
Among those not listed on the state’s potential witness list, but who the defense may call if the case goes to trial, are former UNM athletic director Paul Krebs, former Deputy Athletic Director Tim Cass, and former athletics department Director of Business Operations Yvonne Otts. Cass and Otts, UNM has said, were supervisors who met regularly with Hopkins about details of the purchasing card UNM claims he used to embezzle money. Neither halted use of the card while the alleged crimes were taking place.
Cass has told the Journal he never met with Hopkins about the card.

Former Ashford Academy headmaster who pled guilty to embezzlement receives probation

A Houston County Judge granted former Ashford Academy headmaster probation, Tuesday morning.
Judge Michael Conway originally sentenced Douglas Bauer to 48 months in the state penitentiary, but suspended that sentence and agreed to grant Bauer probation.
Conway agreed to give Bauer five years probation time with multiple guidelines, including that Ashford Academy board members do not oppose probation, and that the proceeds of Bauer’s home sale be applied to his restitution.
The defense and the state agreed that, to the best of their knowledge, the board members were not opposed to probation.
Bauer’s probation case will be transferred to Texas. Currently, Bauer is employed in Texas. Conway also added in the request for probation that Bauer participate in anti-theft classes if available.
Bauer pled guilty on March 5 to 25 felony charges, including theft of property and possession of forged instruments.
Police believe Bauer made illicit financial transactions related to the school totaling more than $37,000. Bauer admitted to stealing those funds while in charge of the private school.
Each month the board members of Ashford Academy would meet and write personal checks of about $600 each for the school’s debt. Bauer was to use the money collected to pay the school’s bills.
Board members became suspicious when they starting receiving delinquent notices for bills associated with the school

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Former church official avoids jail on embezzlement charges but must repay $180,000

A former chief financial officer and executive pastor for Roanoke’s New Century Church, who pleaded no contest to three counts of embezzling funds from the organization, will not have to serve time behind bars.
But William Jared Walters, 33, of Roanoke, is going to have to make regular efforts to pay back $180,000, according to his plea agreement.
About 30 members of the church were on hand Tuesday in Roanoke Circuit Court as Walters entered his pleas and was sentenced.
Roanoke Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Betty Jo Anthony said investigators estimate Walters actually took closer to $239,000, but they settled on $180,000 in exchange for the plea. That’s the amount they could prove, she said.
Walters was with the church from 2007 to 2015, and Anthony said he siphoned cash through check kiting, by using a church credit card to pay off personal debts, and by making loans to himself, often multiple times a day at thousands of dollars each.
Embezzlement is a Class 5 felony that can bring up to 20 years in prison, but Walters received six years total, entirely in suspended time.
“We almost never ask for or agree to no jail time, but this was a specific request of the church,” Anthony said.
Those six years are suspended against restitution, and on Tuesday, Walters paid $8,000 toward the church and also surrendered a $2,000 bond.
He has until August to turn in $12,000 more: $1,000 from his tax refund, $2,000 from a work bonus, $4,000 from real estate he said he is selling on Bent Mountain, and $5,000 from the sale of his car.
That still leaves approximately $158,000 owed, and starting in October he will be required to pay it off in increments of at least $500 a month.
At that rate, it will take a little over 25 years for the church to be made whole. As long as restitution is owed, Walters will remain on probation and could see his suspended time revoked if he misses a payment.
Judge David Carson addressed Walters’ lack of jail time and cautioned Walters that although he intended to honor the will of the victims, the agreement signified Walters’ second chance
“You have received all of those chances today. There will be no third chance,” he told Walters.
Although Walters’ promise of a work bonus indicates he is currently employed, defense attorney Rob Dean said he could not comment on Walters’ job status.
Walters also declined to say anything about the case in court.
In an emailed statement sent after the hearing, Dean wrote, “Mr. Walters maintained his innocence throughout the proceedings and continues to do so. Mr. Walters nonetheless desired to resolve this matter so that all parties could move forward.”
After the hearing, New Century associate pastor Thomas Brown stressed that the loss was not just financial, but personal as well.
“He was one of my best friends. I’m the one who hired him,” Brown said of Walters. “We were never seeking out vengeance.
“I think the hardest thing is, no repentance was made. He still maintains his innocence. That’s the hardest thing.”

Nonprofit group's former leader sentenced for embezzlement

The former executive director of a nonprofit childcare and community program who embezzled more than $300,000 from the organization has been sentenced to more than three years in federal prison.
Kiburi Tucker had pleaded guilty to wire fraud and four counts of tax evasion. He will have to pay $133,624 in restitution to the IRS and forfeit $334,116 under the sentence imposed Wednesday.
The 43-year-old Newark man led The Centre, a now-defunct Newark-based nonprofit. Prosecutors say he took $332,116 from the group between 2012 and 2015, using it to pay for gambling expenses, travel and to furnish his home.
Prosecutors say Tucker filed false personal income tax returns in which he under-reported the money he embezzled and income from his partnership in Elite Strategies, a political fundraising and consulting firm.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Treasurer accused of embezzling from Wilton High School PTSA

Norwalk woman was arrested Wednesday for allegedly embezzling from the Wilton High School Parent Teacher Student Association, where she served as the treasurer. 
Police say in January, the president of the Wilton High School PTSA received a complaint of larceny by embezzlement, where an excess of $20,000 had been taken from the PTSA account via unauthorized transactions. 
After an extensive investigation, it was discovered that the treasurer, 42-year-old Crismari Feliz, had stolen $24,008 by making unauthorized withdrawals from the PTSA checking account. She then used those withdrawals to allegedly pay her personal credit card bills and car lease payments. 
Feliz was charged with larceny and released after posting a $25,000 bond. She will appear in court on April 30th. 

PTO president faces embezzlement charges

The Grace Miller Elementary School PTO president stole approximately $8,000 from the organization over eight months, according to the Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office.

Sheriff’s investigators Tuesday charged Kiley Morgan Gonzalez, 29, of Bealeton, with 10 counts of embezzlement and five counts of forgery and uttering, according to Sgt. James Hartman.

Another PTO officer filed a complaint that Ms. Gonzalez “had forged checks and made transfers involving the PTO account and a personal bank account,” Sgt. Hartman said. 

On Monday, Detective Candyce Shaw obtained warrants charging Ms. Gonzalez. The next day, the suspect, accompanied by her attorney, “turned herself in,” the sergeant said. She “was taken before a magistrate and released on her own recognizance.”

The crimes allegedly took place between October and this month

Monday, April 30, 2018

Former PTA treasurer who embezzled is sentenced to nine months in jail

The former treasurer of a countywide PTA in Maryland’s largest school system has been sentenced to nine months in prison after embezzling more than $39,000 from the group. But prosecutors said the treasurer’s wrongdoing extended beyond that, with testimony that money from an individual school’s PTA was used to pay for gas, clothes, groceries, makeup and a trip to the Statue of Liberty.
Lisa Betts, 46, was sentenced Tuesday in Montgomery County Circuit Court and ordered to repay more than $72,000. She will serve five years’ probation.
Betts stole $39,015 from the Montgomery County Council of Parent-Teacher Associations, writing checks and altering bank statements to hide her activities. The Montgomery County PTA represents more than 50,000 members in 198 parent groups in the county’s public schools.
Betts will pay $1,000 to the countywide PTA for its insurance deductible and $27,000 to Travelers Insurance, which insured the school group.
She was also ordered to repay $44,000 to the Greencastle Elementary PTA, where she previously served as an officer.
Betts’s misappropriation at Greencastle — where more than tw0-thirds of students qualify for free or reduced-price meals — started as early as 2011, prosecutor John Lalos said after Betts pleaded guilty to embezzlement in November.
Montgomery PTA board members began raising questions about financial reports six to seven months after Betts became treasurer. An audit team was formed, and police were contacted in April 2017.
Early on, Betts claimed she used the money to repay funds she diverted from PTAs at Greencastle in Silver Spring and Benjamin Banneker Middle School in Burtonsville.
But Lynne Harris, president of the countywide PTA, said she told the court that Betts had committed hundreds of individual thefts, starting with the school PTAs and extending to the county organization. It was not a single act or lapse but continuous, she said, extending over almost six years.
“There were some alleged shopping trips,” said Ramon Korionoff, a spokesman for the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office. According to bank statements, Betts also used PTA money to see a show in Las Vegas and for regular trips to Starbucks.
“All the shoes, hair salons, restaurants, liquor stores, Mandalay Bay,” Harris said, referring to a Las Vegas hotel. “It’s all in the bank statements.”
Betts’s attorney, Oleg Fastovsky, did not respond to messages seeking comment.
Laura Stewart, a leader in the countywide PTA, headed the audit committee last spring. She said that when members became suspicious about the organization’s financial activities, they requested bank statements in January 2017. Stewart said Betts showed the board fake bank statements in early March 2017.
“She forged the bank documents,” Stewart said. She said Betts would get the original bank documents, scrub them and then present them as “the real bank statement.”
Betts resigned as treasurer shortly after the audit committee saw the real bank statements in April 2017.
Copies of bank statements provided by Harris reveal discrepancies between the documents Betts provided and what was on EagleBank statements.
Betts also wrote and cashed checks written to “cash” and wrote checks to herself as reimbursement that she used to pay her personal credit card bills, according to an impact statement Harris presented in court.
Today’s sentence sends a strong message to the community. Do not steal from nonprofit groups which benefit children. We will hold you accountable,” Korionoff said in a statement.
The Montgomery PTA operates on an annual budget of $60,000 to $70,000, Harris said, which is used for advocacy, an arts festival and informational events.
Harris said she does not think the organization’s reputation will be tarnished by Betts’s sentencing. “We’ve already restored trust in the PTA because I think our leadership team started off being utterly and completely transparent in everything we do,” she said.