Sunday, December 27, 2009


A trusted employee with the East Baton Rouge Parish School System was arrested on December 8, 2009 after she allegedly padded her own bank account through private information from fellow workers.
Authorities said Terry Jenkins-Williams, 39, used her job as a payroll worker to gain access to part-time employee bank account information. She found part-time workers who only worked a few times a year, according to a spokesperson for the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office.
She's accused of skimming from their paychecks or creating fake time sheets for them and funneling that money directly to her checking account. Investigators believe Jenkins-Williams began fudging numbers in October 2006. The total amount of money from fabricated hours added up to $10,423.61.
"If you look at the grand scheme of things, we have over 6,000 employees and it's unfortunate that one employee would bring a bad name to the school system," said Chris Trahan, a school district spokesperson.
Police cracked the case after a substitute teacher claimed she hadn't been paid for working last month. Jenkins-Williams is charged with four felonies and remains in jail on $30,000 bond.

Saturday, December 26, 2009


 A judge agreed on December 23,2009 to electronic monitoring for a Fullerton pastor facing federal charges for allegedly using a religious university as a front to sell student visas that netted him thousands of dollars a month.
Samuel Chai Cho Oh, the owner of California Union University, surrendered to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents on Tuesday, according to ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice.
Oh, who is also the pastor of the Union Church on the university's campus, is accused in a criminal complaint of conspiracy to commit visa fraud and faces a maximum of five years in prison if convicted, Kice said.
Oh, 65, made his initial court appearance this afternoon before U.S. District Judge Marc L. Goldman, who agreed to home confinement but ordered him to post a $30,000 bond.
Defense attorney Adriaan F. Van Der Capellen requested that his client be released without having to post bail, but Assistant U.S. Attorney Rob Keenan said he wanted some sort of guarantee that Oh will appear in court because he has contacts in South Korea.
Van Der Capellen surrendered Oh's passport after the hearing. The attorney said Oh could not post bail because the government has seized most of his assets.
He was hospitalized for high blood pressure Tuesday before being cleared to stay overnight in the Santa Ana jail, Van Der Capellen said.
"He's a good man, an honest man," Van Der Capellen said before the hearing.
If there was a scheme to sell student visas at the university, Oh was not aware of it, Van Der Capellen said. The Korean-born Oh's English is "rough," Van Der Capellen said.
He needed an interpreter in court today.
Oh, a naturalized U.S. citizen who has lived in Garden Grove the past 13 years, is a Presbyterian minister who has traveled all over the world with his ministry, Van Der Capellen said.
The government alleges that Oh collected $40,000 to $50,000 monthly from people posing as foreign students. The "students" were given forms that allowed them to go to a U.S. Embassy or consulate abroad and apply for a student visa, Kice said.
The university's federal certification was revoked Oct. 18, but until then, the school at 905 Euclid St. was authorized to accept foreign students pursuing religious and biblical studies as well as learning English as a second language and Oriental medicine, Kice said.
During their 10-month investigation, ICE agents arrested and questioned more than 30 foreign nationals who claimed they paid Oh anywhere from $600 to more than $10,000 for the documents allowing them to get student visas and sometimes bogus degrees, Kice said.
Kuy Nam Ko, who was an Interpol fugitive, is named in court papers as a witness. Ko, who was arrested Aug. 13 by ICE agents, was wanted in South Korea for an alleged embezzlement scheme in 2003, according to ICE.
He was accused of fleeing to the United States with $650,000 from the sale of a church in Seoul, according to court papers.
Ko told authorities he met Oh in 2007 through a close friend in South Korea, and he worked for Oh as a pastor at his church on the university campus, according to ICE. Ko told investigators he never saw any students or teachers on campus and thought it was a fraud, according to the ICE official.
Many of the university's students told agents they never attended class nor saw any teachers or other students on campus, Kice said. One man said he received a bachelor's degree in education and detailed to agents how Oh allegedly staged a phony graduation ceremony on campus last May, Kice said.
ICE agents paid an unannounced visit to the university March 26 and found little evidence of scholastic activity, according to court papers. While waiting for Oh to arrive, the agents toured the campus and found 14 mostly empty classrooms, according to court documents.
The agents only found an English-as-a-second-language class and a computer class in session, and both classes were associated with the church, according to court papers. A schedule on the bulletin board was from 2007, according to authorities.
Federal agents seized computers and more than 300 student files from the university in October, Kice said. The agency has also seized more than $400,000 in two separate bank accounts maintained by Oh and an associate, she said.
Oh accepted mostly Korean students, but the university also had foreign nationals from more than 20 countries.

Friday, December 25, 2009


A volunteer bookkeeper at a Grosse Pointe Woods church pleaded guilty on December 17, 2009 to four counts of embezzlement charges that could result in up to 15 years in prison.
Frederick Anthony Petz, 59, of Grosse Pointe Woods was charged in September for taking more than $90,000 from Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic Church. He will be sentenced in Wayne Circuit Court Jan. 25.
Petz had been an unpaid bookkeeper given total control of church finances, according to Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy. Petz also worked for Renaissance Vicariate, a group of 26 parishes that collaborate on Catholic programs and services in the Grosse Pointes, Harper Woods and Detroit.
Discrepancies in operating accounts from 2007 and 2008 were reported to the Catholic Archdiocese in the spring by the church's new pastor, Gary Smetanka. Grosse Pointe Woods Police were notified in May when an audit by the Archdiocese traced missing funds back to Petz, according to the prosecutor.

Thursday, December 24, 2009


A 71-year-old church volunteer accused of stealing thousands of dollars from St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Pontiac was charged on December 22, 2009 in the crime.

Salley Crake entered not guilty pleas in a Pontiac courtroom Tuesday to felony charges of embezzlement and larceny.
Police said Crake had been stealing hundreds of dollars once a week from the church located at 46408 Woodward Ave.
At the time of her arrest on Monday, she had $800 on her, said Pontiac police Sgt. Steve Troy.
Church officials suspected someone was stealing from the collection plate when it was being counted back in November and set up surveillance cameras.
Police said Crake was caught her on surveillance video taking the money and stuffing it down her pants.
However, investigators said that they believe that Crake may have been stealing money from the plate long before anyone at the church began to notice.
The Rev. James Kean said he was not aware of any previous issues with Crake when he started at the church in July.
"The pain of realizing this is someone you know, the pain of realizing that this is going to be and have a huge impact on the community," Kean told Local 4.
Crake was ordered to stay out of Pontiac and not to have any communication with the church. She will be back in court on Dec. 29 for another hearing.
"We prayed for the person involved in this. We prayed for what's going to happen when the details started to come to light," said Kean.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


At times, it sounded like an acceptance speech from a highly decorated veteran educator receiving an award.

Susan Ross, former director of federal programs for the Davis School District, on December 14, 2009, spoke of her love of teaching and of children. She had devoted her career to offering them the best possible education, she said.
But this was no acceptance speech. Ross was addressing a federal judge at her sentencing after pleading guilty to a charge of felony money laundering. Ross and her husband, John Ross, are believed to have stolen nearly $4 million in federal education funds in an embezzlement scheme that involved selling pirated textbooks to the school district at inflated prices. A federal indictment said the Rosses set up a company to supply the district with photocopies of books for as much as $80 each when they normally would retail for $15-$25.
Susan Ross, who prosecutors said served a larger role in the commission of the crimes, was sentenced to 36 months of probation, with the first six to be served in home confinement. U.S District Judge Clark Waddoups also ordered that Ross perform 3,000 hours of community service, pay a $10,000 fine and $350,115 in restitution.
Incredibly, Ross will not serve a day in prison, even though sentencing guidelines allowed for a maximum 10-year prison term.
In an unusual step, U.S. Attorney Brett Tolman issued a statement following the sentencing that said, in part, "People who abuse a position of trust, profit substantially, and do so in a totally illegal manner should face more than probation. If you consider the sentence of probation in this case, apparently crime does pay."
While Susan Ross was able to produce several letters from acquaintances and former students who credited her with encouraging them to pursue college educations, for a number of years she systematically embezzled federal Title I funds intended to assist low-achieving students master math and reading and help them meet state standards in core academic subjects. A prosecutor said in court that between 2000 and 2005, the Rosses had pocketed 39 percent of the Title I education funds appropriated to the Davis School District for those years, a figure Susan Ross' defense counsel disputes.
Regardless, the funds were not used for their intended purposes. While Susan Ross may have inspired many students to seek higher education, disadvantaged students, minorities and students with disabilities were short-changed of opportunities due to the Rosses' crimes.
Earlier this year, John Ross pleaded guilty to one count of placing fraudulent copyrights on stolen texts, a misdemeanor. He was ordered to pay a $500 fine. The pair also was ordered to forfeit $800,000 from their bank accounts, two vehicles and homes in Layton, South Weber and Mountain Green.
Neither John Ross, who was a federal grant specialist for the school district, nor Susan Ross was a career criminal, which undoubtedly figured into their sentences. But these offenses were not the stuff of a one-time lapse in judgment. They were crimes systematically perpetrated over a number of years. That aggravating factor should have weighed in favor of prison time for Susan Ross, if not also a brief incarceration for her husband.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


The Rev. Vincent Navorro Meekins Jr., former pastor at Small Memorial AME Zion Church in York, pleaded guilty on December 20, 2009 to stealing nearly $18,000 from the church in April.

Meekins, 55 and now living in Norfolk, Va., was sentenced to five years probation after entering his plea in York County Common Pleas Court for failing to make required disposition of funds received. He faced a maximum sentence of seven years in prison for the third-degree felony.
Three months after Meekins was not reassigned to the city church, elders uncovered the theft of insurance funds meant to repair the church roof which had been damaged in February. The discovery came when a bank informed them of a $126 overdraft in a previously unknown and unauthorized church bank account.
Upon contacting the insurance company, they learned Meekins already had filed a claim, met with inspectors and adjusters and deposited the $17,955 insurance check into a new bank account in the church's name, according to the complaint.
York City Police detectives determined Meekins opened the account with himself as the sole signer. An audit of the account's monthly statements showed the insurance deposit on April 27 followed by numerous withdrawals in May and June, leading to the overdraft.
Monday, Meekins was ordered to make restitution of $17,955 to the church's insurance carrier. His probation will be transferred to Virginia and is to become non-reporting probation when the restitution is paid in full.

As of Monday afternoon, the York County Clerk of Courts office had no record of any restitution being paid in the case.
Meekins had remained free on $20,000 unsecured bail since his arrest in September.

Monday, December 21, 2009


A Detroit man has been found guilty in a $149,000 church mortgage scheme.
Wayne County authorities say a jury convicted 46-year-old Tracy Carmichael of embezzlement, forgery, money laundering and other charges on December 14, 2009. Sentencing is Jan. 5.
Authorities say Carmichael attempted to sell the Temple of God Deliverance church on Detroit's east side in 2007. The church pastor was alerted to the scheme when his congregation was served with eviction papers.
Defense attorney Allan Saroki says Carmichael claimed to have an agreement with the pastor to help obtain a loan on the property.
Carmichael was convicted in federal court in 2004 on 17 counts of aiding in the preparation of fraudulent income tax returns.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


"Thou shall not steal" is the eighth of the 10 commandments in the Bible and the consequences of violating the sacred mandate is a lesson Cathy Bussey is now learning. Police arrested Bussey December 8, 2009 on charges of embezzling more than $27,000 from St. Andrews Catholic Church in Eagle River.
Bussey, 42, of Anchorage, allegedly used her position as a part-time employee at the church to redirect $27,630.87 into her personal bank account using a direct deposit payroll system, according to Anchorage Police Department Detective Joe Barth, with the Financial Crimes Unit.
She is also suspected of creating a false invoice for $9,800 worth of landscaping materials. Barth said he believes she diverted that cash for personal use through a business in California.
Bussey is charged with scheming to defraud, theft in the first degree and falsifying business records.
"It's our understanding that between Aug. 2008 and May of 2009 that Bussey used her skills as an accountant to redirect money into her personal accounts," Barth said. "The church contacted police after they completed an internal review or audit of their books."
Barth added that Bussey either overpaid herself through the use of the direct deposit system or created a false invoice to pay for personal items she had purchased by disguising it as items to complete landscaping around the new church building.
"The people who commit crimes like this are very good at covering their tracks," Barth said. "But they are also greedy and you can only hide things so long before someone gets suspicious and discovers the money is missing."
That was the case with Bussey, who for more than nine months was able to keep her alleged embezzlement secret.
Officials at St. Andrews would not comment on the case because of pending litigation and the ongoing nature of the investigation.
Financial crimes are very common according to Barth, especially among small businesses and nonprofits.
"Look at what happened with Enron," he said. "If it can happen to a multimillion corporation it can easily happen to a small business."
Small businesses are more vulnerable, according to Barth, as there is typically a large amount of trust placed upon the bookkeeper or accountant.
"The best prevention is having multiple eyes reviewing everything," he said. "The extra accountability serves as a deterrent for those considering stealing from their employer."
Barth also said that reporting embezzlement is the best thing a business can do once it is discovered.
"I understand how a business can be shy to report such crimes, as they fear the negative reaction from the community," he said. "But by keeping quiet the culprit gains confidence to continue committing the same crime again."
Bussey entered a not-guilty plea Dec. 9 and was released on a $10,000 bond. If found guilty she faces up to 20 years in prison and must repay the stolen money.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


A Greenfield resident was arrested just after noon Thursday on an indictment from a Highland County grand jury on charges of grand theft and tampering with records in connection with embezzlement from a Greenfield church.
Greenfield Police Chief Tim Hester said the charges against Nancy M. Williams, 55, come as the result of an investigation conducted by the Greenfield Police Department and Ohio Attorney General's Office. The investigation was looking into the alleged embezzlement of more than $40,000 from St. Benignus Catholic Church on South Second Street in Greenfield, where Williams worked as church secretary from 2004 through this year.
Williams was taken to the Highland County Justice Center in lieu of bond and will appear for arraignment in Highland County Common Pleas Court.

Friday, December 18, 2009


Joyful music echoed from the sanctuary at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, but Pastor Gaston Smith did not want to talk to the media.
Sunday morning, Smith clearly avoided cameras, sneaking into the church without offering any comments on his recent conviction.
Smith was found guilty of grand theft on December 11, 2009 for taking $10,000 from his nonprofit group.
His supporters at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church filled the building Sunday morning. Despite his conviction, they plan to stand by their pastor.
Tyrone Lamar told Local 10, "I support my pastor 100 percent. He made some mistakes but he is a good man. I am really hurt."
For now, it appears that Smith will continue as pastor of his church.
There are no laws requiring those convicted of grand theft to step down from their position.
He will return to court in February for sentencing. He could face up to 5 years behind bars.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


On December 15, 2009, Fond du Lac police say a pastor at a Lutheran church is admitting he stole thousands of dollars from the collection basket.
Investigators say The Reverend Stuart Zak, 55, took as much as $10,000 from church offerings collected during the holidays during a ten-year period.
Police say they haven't seen a case like it ever before.
The pastor who was serving his congregation for years at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Fond du Lac, police say, was also taking right out of the collection basket.
"Apparently they were doing some auditing on books, and so they came up with a discrepancy in the funds and they started their internal investigation," Captain Steve Klein, Fond du Lac Police Department, said.
The result of the internal investigation, according to the church's news release, Reverend Zak "confessed his sin."
The remaining pastor declined to go on-camera to talk about what happened or how the congregation feels, but in a news release he describes it as being a difficult time where people are grieving.
"There is forgiveness in the Lord. And we, as a church council, forgive Mr. Zak," the news release says.
But at the same time, the release says the church council is figuring out how to make sure this doesn't happen again.
Police expect to refer their investigation to the district attorney's office later this week. Reverend Zak has resigned from his position and in the past two weeks paid back the church $10,000.
Zak will no longer be able to serve as pastor in any Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) congregation

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Some local parents say they trusted the wrong man with tens of thousands of dollars intended for their children.
The parents at Chinook Middle School say a volunteer withdrew more than $50,000 from the school's Parent Teacher Student Association account in order to bail out his personal business.
Some 900 students and their teachers were counting on money for school programs. David Glass was in charge of every dollar.
Everyone in Clyde Hill trusted Glass. he's the local lacrosse coach, a father of a student at the school and a self-proclaimed financial expert.
On the Web, Glass says expertise has helped dozens of ventures. But the Chinook Middle School PTSA says he took the school for a ride.
The PTSA says Glass, the association's treasurer, cooked the books, and swiped at least $58,000 intended for school programs.
"We went down to the bank, and we were shocked to see that what we thought was in the bank was not," said Angie Lampkin, co-president of PTSA.
On November 13, 2009, the bank told the PTSA members that their account was down to just $403 following a number of cash withdrawals.
"And I looked at the activity on the account, and I said, 'You need to close this account immediately,"' said Anne Medzegian, co-president of PTSA."Just blatant. It was not right."
When they confronted Glass, he resigned. In a letter to the school, Glass stated he acted out of "sheer personal desperation."
KOMO News contacted Glass, but a friend of his said he, not Glass, is handling all questions. That friend said Glass's business went in the tank this year, and he made a bad decision.
Police are investigating, and working to collect paperwork needed as evidence. If Glass is charged and convicted of theft or embezzlement, he could face up to 10 years in prison.
The PTSA board wants Glass prosecuted. The board says he has paid back $45,000 of the missing money, but there's an outstanding balance of $13,000.
"Yeah, I'm angry," said Medzegian. "I am angry that it's been a lot of work for us to pick up the pieces, and he has not been forthcoming with a lot of the information."
The PTSA says it has enough money in the bank to continue the programs and grants at the school, but it still wants Glass to repay what's not his.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


The treasurer of Monterrey Elementary School’s Parent Advisory Committee was arrested and charged with embezzlement on December 10, 2009.
Desiree Felker is accused of taking $12,500 of the committee’s funds, according to court documents.
The committee, a non-profit organization comprised of parents who voluntarily raise money to fill in financial gaps when general school funds are insufficient, noticed discrepancies in their bank statements in November.
Daniel Coleman, president of the the committee, and Denise Samuels, vice president of the committee, told police that Felker had access to the committee’s funds through a bankcard and made 206 personal charges between Nov. 5, 2008, and Nov. 3, 2009, according to court documents.
Felker has been in charge of the funds since September 2008, they said.
Coleman and Samuels provided police with a 41-page bank statement in which they highlighted charges they said should not have been made.
Coleman and Samuels did not return phone calls for comment regarding the case.
Monterrey Elementary School principal Joan Accardi, who met with Felker and members of the committee on Nov. 4 to discuss the missing money, according to court documents, also declined to comment on the incident.
Felker told police during an interview on Nov. 5 that she had used the committee’s money to purchase a computer notebook, printer and cell phone but deposited her income tax return into the committee’s account to counterbalance the charges.
Roswell Independent School District Superintendent Michael Gottlieb said that Monterrey Elementary School and the committee operate as separate financial entities.
The committee does not share an account with an RISD school nor do their finances affect RISD, Gottlieb said.
“They help raise funds for the school, but we have no control over their money,” he said.
Felker, who was booked into the Chaves County Detention Center on Dec. 10 under a $10,000 cash surety bond, bonded out by Friday afternoon.
Felker declined to comment on the embezzlement charges.

Monday, December 14, 2009


On November 8, 2009, another whistle-blowing employee who complained to the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo about financial irregularities at St. Teresa of Avila Church in South Buffalo is being removed from her post. Karen M. Krajewski, pastoral assistant at St. Teresa, confirmed that she was asked to leave by the current pastor, the Rev. James B. Cunningham.
Her dismissal follows the removals in August of the temporary administrator, Monsignor Fred R. Voorhes, and the business manager, Marc J. Pasquale.
Voorhes and Pasquale had urged the diocese to examine financial irregularities and questionable bookkeeping practices at the parish, and after Pasquale took his concerns to the Erie County District Attorney's Office in August, both men were removed.
District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III has since launched an investigation into parish finances but has declined to comment on the probe.
Krajewski, who concurred with Voorhes and Pasquale, initially was retained on staff as the parish operated under a temporary priest administrator, Monsignor W. Jerome Sullivan. In September, though, she sent a letter critical of the diocese's actions to Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the pope's representative in the United States, and to Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York.
"I knew it was coming. It's a new pastor, and he has a new way of doing things and it doesn't include me," Krajewski said.
Cunningham, appointed by Bishop Edward U. Kmiec last weekend, told Krajewski he planned to hire a deacon instead. Krajewski was not critical of the new pastor.
"You've got to give Father Cunningham some time and some space to figure out what he's doing," she said. "He's an extremely fine man. He's going to be easy to work with. Many of the people at St. Teresa's know him. I think he's going to be good for the parish."
But when asked if the diocese had a role in her dismissal, Krajewski responded that she didn't know if the move was Cunningham's "choice and only his choice."
Cunningham did not return telephone calls seeking comment.
A diocesan spokesman said he didn't think there was any connection between Krajewski's dismissal and the earlier moves by the diocese.
Officials from the chancery weren't involved in the most recent personnel change, said the spokesman, Kevin A. Keenan.
"We weren't aware of the decision by the pastor," Keenan said. "Pastors come in and they oftentimes evaluate their personnel needs and they act accordingly."
Krajewski, a retired school teacher, is scheduled to work at St. Teresa parish through Wednesday.
In her letter dated Sept. 21, she criticized Kmiec's decision to dismiss Voorhes and Pasquale, saying the pair had worked tirelessly to turn a difficult merger between St. Teresa and St. John the Evangelist into a success.
"Parishioners ask daily for Msgr. Voorhes (sic) return — they are hurt, stunned and disgusted with this situation," Krajewski wrote.
Diocesan officials have maintained that the removals of Voorhes and Pasquale had nothing to do with the complaint to the diocese or the district attorney, although they've declined to elaborate, citing personnel issues.
Voorhes also has declined to comment, while Pasquale contends that he was fired for sticking up for parishioners and their pocketbooks.
Voorhes was appointed temporary administrator in the fall of 2008, after the previous pastor, the Rev. James T. Bartnik, suffered a stroke during a meeting in Kmiec's office.
Bartnik also had asked diocesan officials to examine whether there had been financial irregularities at the Seneca Street parish when it was overseen by a different priest and bookkeeper, the Rev. Robert M. Mock and Dawn M. Lustan.
The questionable practices included missing invoices, shredded documents, missing computer records and unexplained charges on a parish credit card, according to Pasquale and other sources. Mock, who now is an associate dean at Trocaire College, and Lustan, who works for the diocese, referred questions to Keenan.
"Something is amiss," said Krajewski, who was hired by Voorhes. "I said that when I came in last October. Within a week, I said something's wrong."
Krajewski said she notified the diocese's director of internal audit, Bruce Evert.
"Records just don't go missing," she said.
Cunningham informed Krajewski of her dismissal on the same day she completed a two-hour interview with forensic accountant Timothy McPoland, who was hired by the DA's office to determine if any embezzlement occurred at St. Teresa.
McPoland also interviewed Evert at the parish, Krajewski said.
The appointment of Cunningham has eased tensions at St. Teresa, said Kathy Frawley, a member of the parish council.
On Nov. 1, Cunningham and Voorhes concelebrated at a Mass, which was followed by a reception for Voorhes.
Nonetheless, some parishioners remain concerned about the issues raised by Voorhes, Pasquale and others — and the diocese's reaction.
"Really nothing has been resolved. It's all being investigated and people still have questions," Frawley said. "(For) a lot of people there's still that cloud. They feel bad about what happened to Father Voorhes and Marc."

Sunday, December 13, 2009


With no discussion Monday, November 10, 2009, the Belgrade, Montana School Board unanimously voted to fire District Clerk Susan Lang, who pleaded guilty last month to embezzling funds from a Bozeman sports club.
Trustee Bob Marx was the only board member to say anything during the five-minute meeting.
"I've been on the board for a lot of years and this is one of toughest things I've ever done," Marx said. "I've been thinking about it all week. It's just tough, it's very tough."
Lang pleaded guilty to stealing at least $10,000 from the Bozeman Hawks Wrestling Club during her tenure as club secretary from 2001 to 2009.
Trustees had copies of court records and, given the severity of the crime and Lang's position in the district, "the board was given little choice" but to fire her, Trustee Lance Voegele said.
"It's the public's trust," he said after the meeting.
Lang was given a hand-delivered letter from Superintendent Herb Benz on Nov. 3 that outlined her potential firing. In the letter, Benz said that Lang that, as business manager, held “a position of great trust and fiduciary responsibility.”
Lang was not at the meeting Monday, nor did she send a representative to speak on her behalf.
Her duties will be divided up by current staff in the district's administrative offices, Benz said. It could take up to two months to find a replacement, he said.
Lang has been clerk of the Belgrade School District since 2001, and was earning nearly $73,000 per year, Benz said. Before taking the Belgrade Schools position she was an accountant in the Gallatin County Clerk and Recorder's office.
Benz said last week it is unlikely that Lang stole from the school district.
"There are safeguards in place," he said. "The district goes through a thorough outside audit annually."
Taking money from the school is "not possible" given that several bookkeepers are actively involved in the district's finances, he said.
"We were never concerned about the district," he said. "You would have to have a collusion of employees."
According to court documents, an accountant for the Bozeman Hawks Wrestling Club estimated that Lang took $15,000 from the club. Lang admitted taking approximately $10,000. Later, the wrestling club board reported that approximately $20,000 had been taken
According to court records, Lang told the police that "she offered the board $10,000, but they refused to settle for that amount." She paid back $10,000 to the club in July, according to court records.
Lang will be sentenced in Gallatin District Court next month and faces up to 10 years in jail and possibly a $50,000 fine. The court also could sentence her to probation and could impose restitution.

Saturday, December 12, 2009


A hearing for a former secretary charged with stealing more than $110,000 from a Warren school district and an employee union was adjourned on November 23, 2009 as attorneys continue to discuss a possible plea bargain.

The pretrial conference in Macomb County Circuit Court in Mount Clemens brought no resolution to the felony embezzlement case against Patricia Susan Lowry, 51.
Macomb County prosecutors and Warren police allege Lowry converted between $110,000 and $115,000 in Van Dyke Public Schools and union funds for her own use during a 6-year period.
Investigators have said Lowry was authorized to draw checks from a local credit union account belonging to the Van Dyke Association of Educational Office Personnel. She is accused of directing checks from two district programs into that account and later withdrawing funds for personal use.
The criminal investigation began after a bank notified the district of an overdraft on a check. Court records show the scheme began in August 2003 and ended last April.
Lowry, who resigned in June after 18 years in the district, faces one count of embezzlement of more than $50,000 but less than $100,000 — a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a fine of $25,000 or triple that amount, whichever is greater.
Lowry also is charged with embezzlement of $1,000 or more but less than $20,000, a 5-year felony.
“I do anticipate we’ll be able to work this out to the satisfaction of everybody, including my client,” defense attorney Louis Zaidan said.
The pretrial was rescheduled to Dec. 7 before Judge Donald Miller.

Friday, December 11, 2009


A former employee of the Pulaski County commissioner of the revenue's office who took more than $167,000 from her church pleaded guilty to five embezzlement charges on Wednesday, December 9, 2009.
Patricia Wilson, 57, of Draper was charged in April with two counts of embezzlement. A grand jury that met in July added seven other charges dating from 2006 to early this year.

According to evidence summarized at a hearing Wednesday in Pulaski County Circuit Court, an investigation began after the electricity at Memorial Christian Church in Draper was turned off in March.

The pastor and another church member approached Wilson, who had been in charge of church funds for nine years.
Wilson admitted that she took money from the church without authorization but told the pair that she had hoped to be able to pay it off within six months, prosecutor Peggy Frank said Wednesday.

The church members told the Pulaski County Sheriff's Office what had happened on April 17. Wilson was arrested the same day.
Wilson took more than $116,600 from the church's building fund and more than $50,300 from its general fund. She has since repaid about $20,000, Frank said.

Four of the nine charges Wilson faced were dropped in court.

Wilson has not entered into a plea agreement and will remain free on bond until she is sentenced at a hearing in April. She faces up to 20 years in prison on each conviction.

After she was charged, Wilson resigned from her job as deputy commissioner.
The sheriff's office has said an investigation has shown that no funds were taken from the commissioner of the revenue's office.


The public information officer and school board clerk for the Montgomery County Public Schools is under investigation for allegedly embezzling from the school system.
Anita P. Johnston, 44, has not been charged with any crime, Maj. Dalton Reid of the Christiansburg Police Department said in a news release.
According to two search warrant affidavits filed Thursday in Montgomery County Circuit Court, Johnston may have deposited money meant for the school system in her personal bank accounts.
The search warrants sought access to Johnston's bank records.
On December 4, 2009, interim Superintendent Walt Shannon contacted the police department and provided "copies of a check that had been written to Montgomery County Public Schools but had been signed and deposited into a personal account" of Johnston, according to the affidavit.
Neither Shannon nor Johnston could be reached for comment Thursday.
The first search warrant, which sought Johnston's bank records from July 2008 to December 2009, said that a previous search found that Johnston's July 2008 bank statements showed "several fraudulent transactions." That led police to file a second warrant to examine more bank records from Jan. 1, 2007, through June 30, 2008.
"Thus far the investigation indicates a substantial amount of funds deposited in the accounts of Ms. Johnston some of which are related to the investigation," Reid said. "Police are still in the process of determining just how much money is actually involved."
It's unclear how many members of the Montgomery County School Board knew about the investigation.
Board member Joe Ivers said Thursday he was shocked to learn about the investigation. "I don't know what to say," he said.
Board chairman Wendell Jones said he found out about the investigation on Sunday night. He said he was "speechless."
Johnston was not at work Thursday. Jones said she has been suspended without pay.
Mark Pasier, the school system's human resources director, said Johnston still is "on the books" as an employee. He would not comment further.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


The former head of information technology for the St. Louis Province of the School Sisters of Notre Dame on November 24, 2009 admitted embezzling $510,000, the U.S. Attorney’s office said.
From 2000 through 2007, Paul Steven Murphy submitted fake invoices from a company that he had created and hid his ownership of the company from other employees, his plea agreement says.
Murphy used the money for jewelry, mortgage payments, restaurants and trips to Hawaii, Las Vegas and India, prosecutors said.
Murphy, 44, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in St. Louis to one count of mail fraud and one count of filing false tax returns. Murphy failed to report $112,330 of the embezzled money as income from 2003 to 2007, prosecutors said.
Under federal sentencing guidelines, Murphy faces roughly three to four years in prison when sentenced in February.
When Murphy was indicted in September, province spokeswoman Linda Behrens said that the embezzlement was discovered after Murphy left to start his own business. She also said that Murphy worked for the province, not the associated schools.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Beverly Howard, 53 of Westerly, Rhode Island, is out of a job and facing first-degree larceny charges.

Howard embezzled $334,778.31 from Chartwells, the company that runs the school meals program for the East Lyme school lunch program, said State Police.
Howard told officers she needed to repay about $382,000 in gambling losses, mostly at Foxwoods Resort Casino. The losses spanned six years.
“I first began going twice or three times a year but began going more and more,” Howard wrote in a statement to police, as reported by the Day. “When I would go to the casino, I would play the slot machines. I began to lose money, which was more than my finances would cover. I never used credit cards because I didn’t want my husband to find out how much I had been gambling. I began looking for a way to cover my losses.”
In the affidavit, Beverly Howard said she taking cash out of the cafeteria revenues before making the daily deposits into the school lunch fund and creating false deposit logs to cover that up. In the beginning, she says she attempted to replace the money she took.
Beverly Howard has been ordered to stay away from the casinos. She was in court on December 2, 2009 and pleaded not guilty.
Her attorneys say she is cooperating with authorities and recognizes the severity of the allegations. She returns to court Jan. 7.

Monday, December 7, 2009


About 150 members of St. Barbara Greek Orthodox Church packed the church hall Sunday night, December 6, 2009, for an emergency meeting to inform members of a massive embezzlement from the church’s endowment and building funds, an attorney and sources in the congregation said.
Church leaders would not identify the member of the church at 480 Racebrook Road who had access to both funds and who is believed to have embezzled vast sums of money, possibly more than $1 million, several sources with direct knowledge of the alleged embezzlement said. A specific dollar amount could not be independently verified Sunday.
St. Barbara has a membership of about 750 families.
Sources said the person who handled the church’s funds also handled individual retirement, college and other investment accounts for members of the congregation, and that individual losses potentially may be far greater than the church’s alone.
“As a possible victim of financial fraud, St. Barbara’s Greek Orthodox Church has referred a matter to federal law enforcements relating to investments of church funds,” said Joseph Martini, an attorney representing the church, after the meeting. “We are now working with the FBI in the investigation of the facts and circumstances relating to this matter.
Martini said he referred the matter to federal authorities.
“I thought everybody behaved with grace” in the meeting, Martini said, declining to answer further questions.
The sting from the alleged theft was particularly sharp as the St. Barbara community has rallied together to raise $1.45 million as of July 2008 toward a $6.3 million expansion project.
“The Greeks are a very proud people and we were very proud that we (were) adding to our ranks and expanding our church,” one congregant, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said before the meeting. “We all came together to raise money for this. To have someone take that away is disgraceful.”
The New Haven Register was not allowed into the meeting, but parishioners said church officials, including the bishop of the New York Diocese, attended.
State Rep. Themis Klarides, R-Derby, a member of St. Barbara, said there were few specifics provided at the meeting, but that church leaders “did what they had to do” by reporting the losses to authorities.
“There’s a fellow who has pretty much disappeared ... Everybody knew him in there,” Klarides said. “Obviously, it was turned over to the FBI on Friday.”
The allegations are “that there was fraud and the man misappropriated money,” said Klarides, who said she had been asked by others within the St. Barbara community to answer some of the questions.
“Our community, our Greek community in this area, is very strong. Clearly everyone wants this to be resolved as soon as possible,” she said. “If somebody did something wrong, they should be held accountable to the fullest extent possible. Whoever it is who is found to be responsible should be held responsible to the fullest extent of the law.
At the meeting, there were “people who invested their money — college funds, retirement funds,” Klarides said. “There was a man behind me who said he invested his entire retirement fund in there. There was another woman who said that was her kids’ college money.”
While there were many questions, “the feeling in the meeting was ... we’re clearly going to rally around and get through this together,” Klarides said.
In June 2008, St. Barbara members approved a $6.3 million renovation and expansion project to add a library, bookstore, gymnasium, kitchen and 13 classrooms, according to the church newsletter.
Church officials would not delve into specifics or even confirm that money is missing, referring questions to Martini, but told parishioners that now is an important time to donate, said one parishioner who attended the meeting.
The church officials told members that this is a private matter and they should not talk to the press, the parishioner said.
When someone asked church officials about the procedure to determine who handles the church’s investments, the individual was chastised by a church official as being “unprofessional” and “not part of the community,” according to people inside the meeting.

Sunday, December 6, 2009


A Rantoul man was sentenced on October 19, 2009 to two years probation and ordered to repay nearly $30,000 in money he stole from a church.

Fifty-eight-year-old Edward Fisher was church treasurer at the
Rantoul Presbyterian Church between Jan. 1, 1997, and Oct. 5, 2008
when he stole the money.
Fisher pleaded no contest in September to felony theft charges
and was sentenced Monday in Franklin County District Court.
Rantoul is about 15 miles southeast of Ottawa.

Saturday, December 5, 2009


A Greencastle woman accused of stealing over $350,000 from the church where she worked as a financial and administrative secretary was given the maximum executed sentence allowed by Indiana statute November 21, 2009.

Melynda J. "Mindy" Fenwick, 37, was convicted of six counts of Class C felony forgery and six counts of Class D felony theft. At her sentencing hearing Monday, Putnam County Circuit Court Judge Matthew Headley ordered Fenwick to serve 10 years at the Indiana Department of Correction followed by five years on probation.
Fenwick was arrested Aug. 11 after discrepancies surfaced during an audit of the books at Gobin Memorial United Methodist Church, Greencastle. She was initially charged with six counts of Class C felony forgery and five counts of Class D felony theft. A sixth Class D felony theft count was filed on Oct. 9.
At an initial hearing on Aug. 13, Fenwick pled not guilty to all charges. She changed her plea on Oct. 29, pleading guilty to all counts.

Under Indiana statute, the maximum sentence for non-violent crimes alleged under the same case number is the advisory sentence for the next highest felony charge -- in this case a Class B felony, for which the maximum sentence is 20 years and the advisory sentence is 10 years.
Fenwick wrote 192 checks to herself -- totaling $335,000 -- from Gobin's accounts. In addition, she made about $21,000 in unauthorized charges on the church's credit cards.
Fenwick confessed to forging signatures on the checks and to doctoring bank receipts to cover it up.
Court records indicated that Fenwick began stealing from Gobin shortly after she was hired in late 2004.
"Mrs. Fenwick, your actions have caused so much grief for so many people," Headley said. "But anyone who goes to church knows that forgiveness is a cornerstone theme of the church. Hopefully you'll be able to be forgiven someday ... but right now, you must be punished."
Putnam County Prosecutor Tim Bookwalter recommended Fenwick be given the maximum sentence allowable.
"If not today, when?" he asked. "If not here, where? If not Mindy Fenwick, who?"
Fenwick's attorney James Ensley asked for leniency for his client, pointing out that she had no prior criminal history and had pled guilty to all counts without the benefit of any plea agreements.
"She fell on the sword in this case," Ensley said.
With Indiana good time credit, which allows one day's credit for every day an inmate serves without incident, Fenwick will likely be released from prison in five years. Her sentence could be further decreased if she holds a job in prison or earns educational credits.
Although she has never been prosecuted, Fenwick admitted she had been fired from the two jobs she held before Gobin -- one at a bank and one at a factory -- for stealing.
"I guess the third time you figured you'd get slapped on the wrist again?" Bookwalter said.
"No sir," a tearful Fenwick said. "I didn't know what I thought."
Fenwick said she couldn't say for sure where the money had gone.
"It went different places," she said. "I don't buy extravagant things."
Bookwalter produced records that indicated Fenwick had spent the stolen money on a Wii videogame console, beer, a riding lawnmower, groceries and a desktop computer.
"So, the church was paying for your living costs?" Bookwalter asked.
Fenwick said she often used the money to help other people and to take them out to eat.
"So while the church is dying, you're treating people to dinner?" Bookwalter asked.
"Yes," Fenwick said.
One of the state's witnesses was Vera Farber -- a longtime Putnam County resident and DePauw School of Music graduate who has been involved with Gobin since its beginning in the 1920s.
Farber had donated $60,000 to a fund Gobin had set up to repair its pipe organ -- a fund that was depleted as a result of Fenwick's thefts.
"At first I was so sorry for (Fenwick)," Farber said. "Then I became angry. I worked and saved a long time to have that much money to give."
On the stand at Monday's hearing, Gobin Pastor P.T. Wilson said the news of Fenwick's crimes "sent a shockwave of uncertainty through the church."
Wilson described his relationship with Fenwick as "very warm, very friendly."
Bookwalter asked Wilson what his first thoughts were after Fenwick's thefts were exposed.
"At first, disbelief," Wilson said. "Then a strong sense of betrayal that month after month after month after month she came to these meetings and gave these reports, and everything was fabricated."
Wilson said he had done ministry in women's prisons in the past, and had worked with women who embezzled. In hindsight, he said, he could see some of the same traits in Fenwick he had seen in those women.
"I felt very foolish," he said.
Greencastle Police Department Detective Capt. Randy Seipel said Fenwick's case represented the largest embezzlement loss he had ever dealt with in his 22 years in law enforcement.
"To keep this up for four years; to keep the numbers flowing; to keep the confidence in her from the church built up ... that made what she did quite sophisticated, in my opinion," he said.
Jeff Hansen, a lay leader and 15-year member of Gobin, said Fenwick's crimes had been very hard for him and other members of the congregation to deal with.
"She wasn't a member of our congregation, but we viewed her as part of our church family," he said. "She was one of us."
David Bray, a certified public account who has been a member of Gobin for 35 years and has acted as its treasurer for about 25 years, described the church's financial position as "obviously devastated."
"We've managed to get by," he said. "But we had projects and programs planned that now won't happen."
Bray said the church literally had no money.
"What will you do this winter if the boiler goes out?" Bookwalter asked.
"Wear coats," Bray replied.
"What if the roof goes bad?" Bookwalter asked.
"We'll have to bring umbrellas," Bray said.
Putnam County Adult Probation Officer Rebecca Brush prepared Fenwick's pre-sentence investigation report.
"The thing that struck me as odd was that (Fenwick) never expressed any remorse," Brush said. "She never said she was sorry or expressed any empathy for her victims."
Ensley countered that Brush never asked Fenwick any direct questions about whether or not she was sorry about her thefts.
Fenwick said she did have remorse.
"I felt bad about it all the time," she said. "I just felt like I couldn't get out of it."
Bookwalter asked Fenwick if she felt bad about her thefts or about the fact that she had been caught.
"I feel bad period," she said.
Chris Hanneman, 20, has lived with Fenwick on and off since his early teens.
"She's a very nice lady," he said in court Monday. "She's a devoted mother. I look up to her ... I never would have thought she would do something like this."
Phyllis Neumann, a family friend who has known Fenwick "since Mindy was born," said Fenwick was the sole caregiver for her family and that "her children are her life." Neumann said Fenwick being sentence to prison time would cause great hardship for her family.
"I can't imagine three teenagers and two young children being left without a mother," she said.
Fenwick's younger sister, Tonya VanDiver, said the time since her sister's arrest had been "very stressful and difficult."
Bookwalter asked VanDiver if she knew where the money Fenwick has stolen had gone.
"She's never told me why she did this," VanDiver said. "She just said she's sorry."
Fenwick also said she was worried that her family would suffer if she went to prison -- but Bookwalter took issue with that notion.
He pointed out that Fenwick made $24,000 per year in her position as church secretary, and that she and her husband together were taking in about $3,800 per month. He estimated that Fenwick had stolen about $80,000 per year, and he surmised that she spent a large amount of that money on her family.

"The very people you're using as your hardship here today benefited from this money," Bookwalter said.
Headley said Fenwick's case should "send a message" to other businesses, not-for-profits and churches that they need to be diligent about conducting independent audits of their books.
"Your most trusted employee is the one you need to watch," he said.
Headley gave Fenwick until Friday to report and start serving her sentence.


Friday, December 4, 2009


A former Suffolk, Virginia attorney who embezzled almost $40,000 from an Episcopal church while acting as its treasurer got three years probation in a plea bargain when she was tried in Circuit Court on December 1, 2009.

The money was returned to the church less than a year after it disappeared.
Anne Marston Lynch, 34, was treasurer at St. John's Episcopal Church near Chuckatuck in 2007 when a new treasurer took over. The man asked for an audit of the accounts, and evidence was presented that the church was missing $39,786.20.

At least $25,000 of the money was withdrawn from BB&T Bank by Lynch, and no explanation was provided in the records, according to court testimony.
According to testimony, on October 13, 2006, Lynch, while she was treasurer, used the $25,000 to set up a new account in the church's name at another bank. She also transferred about $14,000 from a church savings account to the new account.
Lynch then withdrew from the new account $39,786.20 in a cashier's check payable to a George McGaha. Prosecutor Marilyn Sally said that Lynch, at the time, represented McGaha and was working for the Suffolk law firm of Pretlow & Pretlow.
Later, evidence presented at trial showed that Lynch turned the money over to McGaha, a man she represented in a traffic-accident case and personal-injury claim in Stafford County in 2000.
In June 2007, Lynch paid back St. John's $40,311.20. Of that amount, $525 was interest, Sally said.
Lynch, standing before retired Norfolk Circuit Court Judge Charles E. Poston, tearfully answered the judge's questions in regard to the plea bargain she signed.
The case will be taken under advisement, and Lynch is to go back to court on Dec. 3, 2012, said Sally. If Lynch has a clear record until that time, the charges could be dropped.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


A Connecticut parish is in uproar this week as a controversy involving two Irish-American priests continues to grow.
One priest is under investigation for the alleged large-scale embezzlement of church funds. But some parishioners are also complaining that a second, more junior priest has been punished by the local bishop for his efforts to expose wrongdoing.
The Rev. Michael Jude Fay was pastor at St John's Roman Catholic Church in affluent Darien, Conn., for 15 years before resigning two weeks ago. A private investigator who looked into Fay's dealings over the past 25 months has claimed that he found questionable expenses involving around $200,000 during that period.
Though no charges have yet been brought against Fay, published reports have stated that both the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office in New Haven are looking into the matter.
This is clearly bad news for the parishioners. But many are also extremely angry at the treatment of Rev. Michael Madden.
Following Fay's resignation, Madden was promoted to acting administrator of the parish. But, after acknowledging during a Mass last week that he had joined the parish's bookkeeper, Beth D'Erario, in hiring the private investigator - and blasting the diocese for having "failed to come to my rescue when there were red flags waving everywhere" - the younger priest was summoned to Bridgeport to meet with Bishop William E. Lori.
By that night, Madden had written a letter apologizing that "I spoke way out of turn and suggested things regarding Bishop William Lori and the Diocese of Bridgeport that were not true or factual." He also described his decision to hire the private investigator as "a huge mistake which has further complicated matters."
The letter, to many parishioners' consternation, also included a statement by Madden that he had "voluntarily asked Bishop Lori to release me from my appointment as acting administrator."
Madden noted that the bishop had given him the choice of a time of "rest and reflection" immediately, or after a new pastor settled in at the church. Madden said he had chosen to stay as parochial vicar for the time being.
This, in turn, led to a tumultuous meeting at the church when a crowd estimated at 200 voiced their dissent to Bishop Lori. Many of them seemed to believe the apology had been coerced from Madden and that the requirement of "rest and reflection" essentially amounted to an attempt to oust him from the parish.
Now, the Echo has learnt that parishioners have launched a petition aimed at ensuring that Madden is not moved elsewhere and that he does not suffer for his actions.
Regarding Madden's decision to hire the private investigator, parishioner Cyndy Ashburne told the Echo, "Obviously, the man was in a position where he felt he had no choice. The Catholic Church has had a problem for a long time with hiding things, with keeping things covered up. So it's important that people step forward to right a wrong."
The initiative for hiring the private investigator is believed to have come from the bookkeeper rather than from Madden himself. But the priest is understood to have gone along with the idea after doubts emerged as to whether the diocese would be sufficiently robust in investigating suspicions of wrongdoing by Fay. Madden and D'Erario hired the private investigator, Vito Colucci Jr., with their own funds.
Another parishioner, Phillip Dolcetti, said that he had been one of those who spoke out during the stormy meeting addressed by Bishop Lori last week.
"I said to the bishop, 'He [Madden] doesn't need rest and reflection,'" Dolcetti told the Echo. "He needs rest and relaxation. That man has nothing to reflect upon. He did the right thing."
"We are all concerned that they are going to put him out to pasture," Dolcetti added. "He went out on a limb and he's jeopardized his future. You don't punish somebody who is honest."
Ashburne said that Madden "looked in pretty bad shape" at the meeting. "He looked like he had been put through the wringer," she said.
In separate interviews, both Ashburne and Dolcetti suggested that concern about the treatment of Madden is beginning to overshadow parishioners' anger at the deeds in which Fay is alleged to have been involved.
Nonetheless, rumors are rife that the current allegations about Fay's behavior could be only the tip of the iceberg. Fay's expensive clothing, use of limousines and other symptoms of a taste for the high life had perplexed some parishioners for years, though rumors that he came from a rich family quashed some suspicions.
It has also been reported that Fay owned a condominium in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., with a close male friend. The friend, Clifford Fantini of Philadelphia, also known as Cliff Martell, has been variously described as a fashion show director and a wedding planner. Some parishioners are adamant that Fay and Fantini/Martell were lovers and that the wedding planner often stayed at the rectory for long periods.
Fay's friend could not be reached. However, when contacted by the New York Times, he described the priest as a "most loyal friend and wonderful human being" before declining further comment.
Fay's current whereabouts are unclear.
"I'm happy that he's gone," Dolcetti said.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


On November 18, 2009, members of the Florence-Carlton School Board accepted a trustee's resignation at a special meeting on Wednesday night, two days after the woman was charged with embezzling more than $237,000 from an architectural firm in Missoula.
In a letter tendering her resignation, Linda Faye Harris, 50, of Florence, wrote that she was stepping down from her position due to "complicated private and personal issues," but did not specifically mention the criminal allegations. Harris was charged with felony theft by embezzlement Monday in Missoula County Justice Court. She allegedly stole money from CTA Architects over an eight-year period that ended in June.

Florence-Carlton School District Superintendent John McGee said Harris had no independent control over the school district's finances, and that an internal investigation of her roughly year-long term with the board was unnecessary.

"What has happened to Mrs. Harris has no bearing on her past role with the Board of Trustees," McGee said. "I think her final act of resignation is commendable, and I applaud her for taking steps to insulate this district from any wary or suspicious eyes. But as a trustee she had no individual financial control. School districts are designed that way."
Harris began working for CTA Architects of Missoula in 2001 as an administrative assistant and bookkeeper. She resigned in June 2009, after CTA's accounting department discovered Harris had purchased gas on a weekend using a company credit card. She could not explain the purchase, and on closer inspection employees found what appeared to be forged signatures on business checks, as well as "questionable" credit card charges and expense reimbursements that spanned an eight-year period.
Management met with Harris in June to discuss the irregularities, and she admitted stealing between $10,000 and $15,000. She offered to resign, saying she had made "a very bad mistake," according to court records. The company then hired an external accounting firm to audit their records, and the private firm found $237,842 in "questionable expenses" - purchases made between December 2001 and June 2009, according to court records.
Harris told her employer that she had used the money to assist her son financially, paying for his rent, car payments, student loans, food purchases and insurance.
The audit showed payments on a Costco charge card, as well as purchases of clothing, boat parts, tools, tires and a refrigerator, records state. Harris begged for time to pay back the company.
She faces a maximum punishment of 10 years in the Montana State Prison and a $50,000 fine.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


An Inglewood school board member is scheduled on December 4, 2009 to be arraigned on charges she embezzled several thousand dollars from the Inglewood Unified School District.
Trina Williams, 49, allegedly overcharged the district $7,500 for training and traveling expenses over the span of more than a year beginning in June 2007, according to the L.A. County district attorney’s office. If she is convicted, she faces up to four years in prison.
An audit by the Los Angeles County Office of Education submitted in July exposed the alleged crime.
Williams, who was arrested earlier this month, will be arraigned on one felony count of misappropriation of public funds. She is free on bail.

Monday, November 30, 2009


On November 19, 2009, the Ramsey County, Minnesota Attorney's Office charged former St. Paul Public Schools employee Sandra Jean Leis with one count of felony Theft by Swindle. In in a criminal complaint, proscecutors allege that the 66 year old former employee stole more than $21,260 from the school system.
Leis is scheduled to make a first appearance in Ramsey County District Court on December 16, 2009.
According to the complaint, school district officials discovered after Leis retired in June of 2009 that she allegedly had falsified a checkbook register, and used a stamp signature of a supervisor's name to write 41 school district checks to herself between September 2005 and January 2009.
Investigators say she covered up the embezzlement by writing a different payee on the check register in the case of each check she wrote to herself. Follow-up revealed that all 41 checks had been deposited into Leis' account at US Bank.
After being questioned by St. Paul Police, Leis admitted she had written checks to herself without permission from her supervisors. Last week wrote a check to the school district for $15,000. That check is being held pending the outcome of the case.

Sunday, November 29, 2009


In Plymouth, Michigan the Fiegel Elementary PTO requires two signatures on each check written. And the Ann Arbor Amateur Hockey Association has spread financial responsibilities among members. On the heels of money being embezzled, the organizations are putting more safeguards in place. Nine people have been charged in southeast Michigan this year with embezzling money in cases involving the church, the hockey association, PTOs and Detroit Public Schools.
Daniel Oliver, director of finance and administration for the archdiocese, said even though a recent embezzlement case at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church in Grosse Pointe Woods was discussed, the impetus for the Web site -- which they hope to launch by the end 2009 -- was to enable the archdiocese to be more proactive.
A former bookkeeper is charged with stealing more than $90,000. The case is now in Wayne County Circuit Court.
"Nobody wants to be the one to call in and be the person to air the dirty laundry," Oliver said. "What this system does, it allows us to really kind of dig through, ask questions, do some follow-up to see whether or not the claim somebody is making really has some validity to it."
Churches, schools, volunteer groups lose cash to theft. They were trusted parents and volunteers, paid bookkeepers and church members. They handled finances for boosters, athletic clubs, parent-teacher organizations, Catholic parishes and schools.
And when no one was looking, they stole. After being victims of embezzlement, groups in cities like Plymouth, Ann Arbor and Troy, as well as Van Dyke Public Schools in Warren, have put safeguards in place, including requiring multiple signatures on checks, doing background checks on potential bookkeepers and not allowing one person to handle all finances.
The Fiegel Elementary PTO in Plymouth -- where a former treasurer and her husband were charged in May with stealing more than $14,000 -- requires background checks.
The Troy Athens High School Athletic Boosters -- which had a former concession manager, sentenced to five years of probation in 2008, steal $5,800 -- has made changes including that money from concessions be counted by two people, said boosters President LaRue Williams.
A former bookkeeper who handled all of the Ann Arbor Amateur Hockey Association's finances embezzled more than $800,000. Lindsay Aspegren, treasurer of the association's board, said the group now provides more financial training for board members.
Van Dyke Public Schools, where a former secretary was accused in June of stealing $112,000, now reviews banks statements more frequently, said district spokeswoman Renee Burch.
The Archdiocese of Detroit is creating a Web site and phone line for people to give anonymous tips. A former bookkeeper at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church in Grosse Pointe Woods was charged in September with embezzling more than $90,000.
Daniel Oliver, director of finance and administration for the Archdiocese of Detroit, said he hopes the new anonymous tip service "will deter anyone who might be thinking about doing anything from going forward with it."
Canton Police Detective Tim Wright, who investigated the Fiegel PTO case, said one person should never be put in charge of all of an organization's finances
"You can't trust," he said. "No matter who it is."

Saturday, November 28, 2009


A Chico, California man facing up to 20 years in prison for allegedly embezzling nearly $700,000 from a Catholic charity has once again reset his preliminary hearing in federal court. Thom Randle, 68, was scheduled to appear in court on Friday, but for the 10th time, the status and preliminary hearing has been continued.

Randle is now scheduled to be in court December 18, 2009. He pleaded not guilty at his May 5, 2009 arraignment to multiple counts of mail fraud, computer fraud and money laundering and was released on his own recognizance. The offenses were allegedly committed while Randle served as vice president of finance on the board of directors for the Columbian Retirement Home, operated by the Knights of Columbus.
According to a public relations spokesperson at the U.S. Attorney's Office in Sacramento, there is no limit on how many times a hearing can be rescheduled. Continuances are at the discretion of the judge. The spokesperson said it is not unusual for cases involving financial elements (such as embezzlement charges) to be continued several times due to the large amount of paperwork and research involved.
Randle, a fourth-degree member of the Knights of Columbus, served on three Knights councils in Paradise and Chico. He was serving as state secretary at Our Divine Savior Church when he resigned in January 2007, a few months before the end of his term.

Friday, November 27, 2009


A Ten Mile, Tennessee woman has been arrested on allegations of embezzling more than $50,000 from a rural Baptist church where she is treasurer. The Daily Post-Athenian reports that Kelly Maynor, 39, of 10 Mile, was arrested Monday, November 3, 2009 in Meigs County on charges of theft of services and filing false financial statements.

Lakeside Baptist Church in Ten Mile reported more than $50,000 in church funds missing. Meigs County Detective Keith Kile told the newspaper that church leaders contacted authorities a few weeks ago.

A telephone message left at a number listed as Maynor's address was not returned Tuesday.Kile said Maynor apparently spent much of the money for her own personal use.

Maynor posted a $5,000 bond.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


A former youth minister will spend the next nine months in jail after pleading guilty to theft charges on Monday, November 16, 2009. William Charles Lohn appeared before Circuit Court Judge Robert Crigler and entered a plea of guilty to theft over $60,000.

Lohn was indicted in August after members of Shelbyville Mills Baptist Church contacted authorities with information that the former youth minister embezzled over $80,000 from church coffers.
According to assistant district attorney Mike Randles, Lohn has agreed to serve 10 years on state probation, subject to serving nine months "day for day," which will be followed by three months of house arrest.
Lohn will also have to make the arrangements for the home confinement and pay for the costs of the electronic monitoring.
Restitution will also be required with Lohn paying back $78,245.25 to the church. Ten percent of that figure, $7,824.52, is due within 30 days and then Lohn will have to pay $655 a month. He will also have to pay court costs and will report to jail on Dec. 16.
Randles told Crigler that Lohn had begun writing himself additional paychecks from the church about three years ago.
At one point, Lohn had repaid some $2,700 and Randles said that the minister "always had the intent to repay the money" but over a period of time, it became "no longer feasible" for Lohn to pay back the rest "and cover up what had been done."
Several members of Lohn's church were in attendance for his plea on Monday.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Judy L. Albee, 45, of Shell Lake, the former church secretary and treasurer for Faith Lutheran Church in Spooner, received a five-year prison sentence on Oct. 27, 2009 for stealing more than $13,000 from a church account between December 2006 and January 2009.  This was not her first conviction. She already had served time in federal prison for another case where she embezzled.
In the Faith Lutheran case, Albee was charged with seven different counts related to writing 14 unauthorized church checks to individuals and entities to which the church owed money. The checks were endorsed by the “alleged payees” – names Albee forged – and by Albee herself. The complaint said Washburn County District Judge Eugene Harrington, who is a member of Faith Lutheran, had been alerted by Marilyn Norton, assistant treasurer for the church, that Albee had “endorsed and cashed without the knowledge, permission or consent of church elders, board members or pastor.”
Austin Parenteau, investigator for Washburn County Sheriff’s Office, contacted the payees on the 14 checks and all “confirmed” they had not received the checks.In an int erview with Parenteau on March 3, the complaint said, Albee confessed “to stealing thousands of dollars from the church by forging a number of checks which were then either cashed by her directly or deposited into her personal financial accounts without the church’s knowledge, permission or consent.”
In the complaint, Albee said she stole the funds to cover “delinquent” mortgage payments.
Harrington recused himself from the case because of his membership at Faith Lutheran, and Kenneth Kutz, Burnett County District Court judge, took over. Albee pleaded guilty to theft of more than $10,000 in a business setting; two counts of forgery; theft of $5,000 to $10,000 in a business setting; forgery uttering; and fraudulent writings by a corporation officer.
For theft of business greater than $10,000, Kutz sentenced Albee to three years in prison and three years extended supervision; for forgery, two years in prison and two years extended supervision. The two sentences are to be served consecutively, which means Albee will serve a minimum of five years in prison.
For theft of business greater than $5,000 to $10,000 and the second forgery charge, Albee received three years probation for each, with the sentence withheld.

The three other charges were dismissed but read into the record for sentencing.
Kutz ordered the state to submit a restitution plan against Albee within 60 days.
Kutz ordered Albee to do 100 hours of community service within “the community” each year she is on extended supervision or probation.

A Hillsboro, Ohio man was indicted by a Highland County grand jury on November 3, 2009 on charges of theft and tampering with records after he allegedly embezzled more than $200,000 from an area church.

Dennis L. Butler, 68, was indicted on one count of theft, a third-degree felony, and one count of tampering with records, a third-degree felony.
According to the Highland County Sheriff’s Office, the indictment was the result of an ongoing investigation by detectives with the HCSO into allegations that Butler was embezzling money from a Concord Township church where he had been serving as treasurer for a number of years.
Sheriff Ron Ward said that the investigation was initiated by the HCSO in August after the church board approached the sheriff’s office with concerns over church accounts.
“There were some irregularities on the church accounts that caused concern among board members,” Ward said. “We initiated an investigation in August, and audits of the records showed a misappropriation of church funds that goes back many years.”
The sheriff’s office said the charges were the result of Butler using church money for personal gain or use, as well as creating fictitious accounting records. The funds in question total more than $202,000, and involve a period of more than five years.
During the time period of the theft, Butler was working as a local insurance and investment agent, the sheriff’s office said. Part of the theft case involved misappropriation of funds from annuities owned by the church that Butler managed as an investment adviser.
Ward said that while the church board came forward with the concerns, it was the sheriff’s office that pursued the investigation.
“They came to us with concerns. Once we find that a crime has been committed, we’re ethically required to move forward and charge those involved,” he said. “I feel pretty strongly that in a church environment, it’s a bad situation to prosecute one of your elders. That is not an easy decision. But the board members did the right thing.”
Butler, who is a current member of the Hillsboro Planning Commission, current officer on the Highland County Republican Central Committee, has been president of the Highland County Board of MRDD and was presented the Distinguished Service Award from the Ohio MRDD in October 2008, turned himself in to the sheriff’s office Wednesday and was arraigned in Highland County Common Pleas Court via video arraignment, where bond was set at $10,000.