Thursday, July 31, 2014

Court upholds verdict that awarded St. Bernard School $800,000 in embezzlement case in Connecticutt

The state Supreme Court has upheld a 2012 jury verdict that awarded St. Bernard School in Uncasville more than $800,000 in a lawsuit against Bank of America.
The parochial school, operated by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Norwich, sued the bank in 2008, claiming that it negligently let a longtime school employee loot more than $840,000 from its account.
In its opinion, released Tuesday, the court directed that $5,156.42 be reduced from the total award, plus interest, because St. Bernard’s claims were subject to a three-year statute of limitations under the Uniform Commercial Code, which governs sales and other transactions.
“The findings of the State Supreme Court in favor of St. Bernard School is a gratifying outcome on many levels," diocese spokesman Michael Strammiello said. 
"This decision exonerates the finance department at the school and recognizes the bank as the negligent party. Not to be forgotten is that it was the finance administrator at the school who discovered the wrongdoing in the first place," Strammiello said.
The findings ensure that the funds will be rightfully reclaimed, he said.
"At a time when St. Bernard School is experiencing so many positives, including increasing enrollment, the diocese joins with the St. Bernard School board and administration in being grateful for a just outcome."
Reached Wednesday morning, attorneys for Bank of America declined to comment. Michael Colonese, the lawyer representing St. Bernard, had not returned a phone call by Wednesday afternoon.
The events leading to the lawsuit, court cases and the Supreme Court opinion began more than a decade ago.
Salvatore R. Licitra Jr., 47, formerly of East Lyme, is serving a seven-year prison sentence for stealing from the school between December 2002 and September 2006. Licitra was convicted of first-degree larceny. He was sentenced on Sept. 11, 2008, and is due to be released no later than Jan. 22, 2015.
Beginning as a part-time bus driver, Licitra worked his way up to school bus coordinator, computer technician and later to accounts payable.
In 2002, Licitra went to a Fleet Bank branch in Norwich and opened a bank account he called “Saint Bernard’s High School Norwich Diocese Camp Sunshine, c/o Sal Licitra.” Bank of America acquired Fleet Bank in 2004.
Licitra used numerous schemes to move money from a St. Bernard account, also with Fleet Bank, to his Camp Sunshine account. He had no authority to withdraw money from St. Bernard’s account.
According to legal filings in the case, Licitra told third parties paying money to St. Bernard to make checks out to the Camp Sunshine account, which he then endorsed and deposited.Licitra also fraudulently deposited, and the bank accepted, unendorsed checks made out to “Saint Bernard High School” into his private account.He also wrote checks from St. Bernard’s account to the Camp Sunshine account for bills the school never owed.

Licitra’s embezzlement continued until his position was eliminated in 2006. He was arrested in July 2007 after Norwich diocese officials discovered the scam.
In its trial defense, Bank of America said St. Bernard waited too long under the terms of its deposit agreement to make a claim.
Trial Judge James Devine ruled that the deposit agreement time limit violated a state law that says banks have a responsibility to keep their customers’ money safe.
Devine also told jurors that the time limit could be waived if they found that the bank’s later conduct was related to its first actions or if Bank of America had a “special relationship” of continuing trust and duty toward St. Bernard.
The bank’s appeal said the judge’s instruction to the jury was improper, and the time limit should be applied.
Bank of America also asked that the verdict be cut by $100,000, the amount paid to St. Bernard by its insurer.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Former New Berlin, Wisconsin teacher charged in laptop thefts


A former New Berlin high school teacher accused of stealing 18 laptops from the school was charged Monday with four counts of misdemeanor theft.

Amanda Rhyner, 27, a former high school English teacher, will make her first court appearance on Aug. 11.

According to a criminal complaint:

School officials at New Berlin Eisenhower Middle and High School first became aware of a possible theft when a Waukesha man contacted Dell to change the ownership information. Dell, in turn, notified the school, which had registered the laptop.

School officials spoke to the Waukesha man who said he purchased the laptop from Rhyner in September for $100. The man provided emails and a phone number that matched Rhyner's contact information.

A complete inventory of the laptops showed that 18 were missing and three of the missing laptops were last connected to the school on Oct. 13. When officers reviewed the security footage, they saw Rhyner go in and out of her classroom, and others, with a laptop bag and large blue bin.

The school district removed Rhyner from teaching last fall when the theft was discovered,

Readsboro, Vermont principal admits to embezzling

The former principal of the Readsboro Central School admitted on Monday to embezzling from the school but may evade a criminal record for the incident.

Michael W. Heller, 41, of Fairfax, pleaded guilty on Monday in Bennington criminal court to a felony charge of embezzlement. The state dismissed a misdemeanor charge of petty larceny.

As part of the plea agreement, Heller’s sentencing was delayed for 18 months. If he has no further legal problems, the charge will be expunged from his record.

Through his attorney, David Silver, Heller admitted on Monday to embezzling about $4,500 for his personal use from about $6,000 in grants that were awarded to the school last year.

Police released information about the embezzlement in January. Heller resigned from his position as principal of the school, where he had served for about a year, in December.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Former recreation clerk pleads to embezzlement in Rhode Island

Andrea Masterson, the former town employee who was charged with embezzling from the recreation department, pleaded no contest Tuesday in Newport County Superior Court. Masterson, 33, of Beach Avenue, Jamestown, was ordered to pay $15,000 restitution and placed on 18 months probation. Judge Edward Clifton presided over the case.

Masterson was arrested in May2012 after Recreation Director Bill Piva alerted Finance Director Tina Collins of money missing from the department’s office. Police Chief Ed Mello then began an investigation, and photocopied $20 bills were placed in the cash box. When the bills went missing, police called Masterson in for questioning and located the missing bills in her possession. She was immediately terminated.

The state attorney general’s office in February proposed sending the case to its diversion unit, an alternative to prosecution for firsttime felons. The Town Council, however, decided that the “nature of the incident alleged to have occurred was of such a serious and substantial nature, that a more fitting disposition than referral to the diversion program” was warranted. The council rejected the attorney general’s offer, and the case was sent back to court.

Some charges dropped in Poe Middle School embezzlement case in Virginia

Charges were dropped Monday against a former Fairfax County principal’s son, who was accused of being part of an embezzlement scheme that allegedly defrauded a middle school of more than $100,000.

Brenton Rusnak, 21, of Radford, Va., had been charged with receiving stolen property and conducting an unlawful financial transaction in connection with the case at Annandale’s Poe Middle School. A Fairfax County prosecutor did not indicate during a hearing in General District Court why authorities were not going forward with the case.

Sonya Swansbrough, 47, Rusnak’s mother and the former principal, is still facing an embezzlement charge for allegedly falsifying timesheets for personal gain while she headed the school, but a charge against her of conducting an unlawful financial transaction was also dropped Monday.

Bethany Speed, a former financial specialist at Poe, had her charge amended from embezzlement to grand larceny in the case.

The next hearings for Swansbrough and Speed are on Aug. 25 and Aug. 21, respectively.

A new principal was appointed at Poe in June.

Monday, July 28, 2014

University of Louisville gets proactive in embezzlement protection

 It was Sept. 2013 when University of Louisville President James Ramsey said he discovered the head of the Department of Family and Geriatric Medicine had stolen more than $2 million from the school.

Perry Chad Vaughan is accused of writing checks to himself from several medical practices linked to the school. Vaughn was caught when he deposited the money into a non-university account. 

"When someone breaks the law, we're going to go after them -- make it public -- and we're going to prosecute, and we've done that," Ramsey said Wednesday.

The Vaughn case prompted an audit filled with 17 recommendations on how to protect the school's finances more effectively. 

Recommendations include hiring a new Chief Financial Officer, increased vendor scrutiny and expanding employee training programs. Additionally, the Board of Trustees must approve every new University bank account. 

The audit was performed by two independent firms, Strothman & Co. and Dean Dortan Allen Ford PLLC, which conducted more than 100 interviews and visited every University college. 

Bill Meyer of Strothman and Co. said, "We believe reviews such as this would have caught some of the earlier frauds committed in this area."

UofL has dealt with at least six cases of employees accused of stealing from the school. 

Robert Felner, the former Dean of Education, was sentenced to serve 63 months in prison for stealing a half million dollars.

"We've obviously worked to strengthen the processes and make them stronger to essentially eliminate fraud and thievery," said Bob Hughes, Chairman of U of L's Board of Trustees. 

The Board of Trustees Audit Committee agreed to implement all of the audit's findings except one, where the process had already started to address change.

Farmington man arrested for embezzlement in New Mexico

A Farmington man has been arrested for allegedly taking money from a school theater.
Charles Cheney, 48, is accused of embezzling $2,500 from funds belonging to the Turano-Christian Performing Arts Theater at Piedra Vista High School.
Cheney was the theater’s manager since 2010.
Farmington Municipal Schools discovered the missing money after someone interested in renting out the space brought it to their attention.