Thursday, September 30, 2010

Providence, Rhode Island school principal faces embezzlement charges

A Providence elementary school principal was arraigned Wednesday on embezzlement charges.Anthony DeAngelis appeared in Providence Superior Court on a charge of embezzlement over $100. He was released on $10,000 personal recognizance.According to the attorney general's office, DeAngelis embezzled $9,021.57 from the student activity fund.DeAngelis is the principal at Pleasant View Elementary School.
The Providence School Department said in a statement that he was placed on suspension, but would not comment further.The attorney general's office said DeAngelis doesn't have a prior record and is being represented by Thomas Tarro.He's scheduled to be back in court on Oct. 25 for a pretrial conference.

Athletics director charged with embezzling $135K from school account in South Carolina

Bond has been set for a Midlands high school athletics director accused of embezzling more than $135,000 from the school district. The money was supposed to pay for sporting equipment, travel and jerseys, but investigators say that money went straight into the AD's pocket. Lexington County sheriff's deputies arrested White Knoll High School Athletics Director Brian Butz, 46, on Wednesday at his home in Batesburg-Leesville. An arrest warrant charges Butz with stealing $135,596 from an athletics department expenditures account between June 2006 and September 2010.Sheriff James Metts said Butz was issued a $100,000 surety bond on Thursday, and will hire his own attorney. "I'm a family man with nowhere to go," Butz told the judge.According to the warrant, Butz laundered money collected to support the school's athletics program through a bank account the district did not know about or authorize Butz to use. Butz had signature authority on the bank account, said Metts. "He took a debit card that he had on the account, go to an ATM machine and withdraw cash," Metts described. "And that's presenting a problem in us being able to document how the money was spent."In August, deputies said district Chief Financial Officer John Butler asked them to investigate "irregularities" in the athletics account, irregularities which included a negative balance. "This unknown account was not the official Booster Club account, nor was it part of the district's accounts," said Lexington School District One spokeswoman Mary Beth Hill. With the investigation underway, administrators immediately placed Butz on leave pending the inquiry, which Hill says is standard board policy and district operating procedure. A White Knoll assistant principal with past athletics director experience is currently serving as athletics director.Butz became athletics director at White Knoll in 2006 after serving as head athletics trainer. There is no word yet on Butz's current job status with the district.Under South Carolina law, embezzlement of more than $10,000 in public funds is a felony that carries a maximum punishment of 10 years in prison, Metts said. The White Knoll High Booster Club cooperated fully with the investigation, according to Metts, and deputies did not find irregularities in any other bank accounts that are used for athletics program expenditures at White Knoll.The accusations against Butz are similar to the charges filed against Blythewood High School Touchdown Club Vice President Enola Gay Thornton, who is accused of embezzling over $3,000 from the club's account in August.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Priest accused of stealing parish funds in Watertown, Wisconsin

A Wisconsin priest has been accused of stealing church funds and tricking parishioners into giving him money.A criminal complaint filed in Jefferson County charged the 65-year-old Rev. Thomas Marr with theft in a business setting and theft by fraud.Prosecutors say Marr solicited money from parishioners by telling them he needed it for those in need. Instead he invested the money with church member Arthur Eith, who claimed the money would help release millions of dollars from Nigeria.The State Journal reported that Marr is accused of persuading 21 church families to give him a total of nearly $164,000.In a search warrant related to the case, Marr estimated he'd given Eith $613,000.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Bucks Sports League Head Gets Prison For Embezzlement in Pennsylvania

The former president and treasurer of the Warrington-Warwick Athletic Association’s girls’ basketball league in Bucks County is headed to prison for stealing tens of thousands of dollars from the nonprofit organization.Joseph Anderson pleaded guilty today to felony theft charges and was sentenced to 10-23 months in the county prison followed by three years’ probation.Prosecutors say the 59-year-old accountant wrote more than 100 checks to himself over a five-year period, embezzling about $70,000 they say was used to pay his bills.“When people are placed in a position of trust and they violate that position of trust, and in a nonprofit organization like this, they need to be punished for it. And also, a message needs to be sent.”
The judge rejected a request for house arrest. Karsch says the money has been paid back.And in a strange twist, the treasurer of the association’s boys’ basketball league is now awaiting trial on charges he stole more than $100,000. Police say the two cases are not connected and they don’t believe the men knew about each other’s alleged crimes.

Waynesboro, Virginia youth football league finances probed

Waynesboro police are investigating possible embezzlement at Waynesboro's youth football league, according to court records obtained Monday."Suspicious" transactions caught the attention of a Waynesboro Quarterback Club board member, prompting a police investigation, according to a search warrant affidavit filed by a detective seeking bank records.Police are reviewing Quarterback Club transactions from June to September because the club account contained less money than it should have, the affidavit states."Also there were several transactions which were not approved by the board," the affidavit states.The club oversees youth football teams with players ages 8 to 13. In the last year the league has grown substantially, to about 180 players and 60 cheerleaders, said a city official.Board members did not immediately return calls Monday afternoon.Club Football Coordinator J.R. Coffey declined to comment because the investigation is ongoing, but he said football season will not be interrupted.

Authorities have charged a woman and her mother with embezzling money from a Waynesboro youth football league, police said Friday.

Former Waynesboro Quarterback Club President Amber Michelle Hite and her mother, Sarah Frances Hite, the organization’s former treasurer, turned themselves into police Wednesday and were released on unsecured bond, Waynesboro police Sgt. Becky Moran said.
Club Vice President Dawn Jones said $6,000 in club money disappeared earlier this year, prompting the police to begin what Moran called a tedious, line-by-line investigation of credit card and check transactions.
Authorities declined to say how much money was embezzled from the club.
Board members said they removed the Hites in October from their positions with the organization.
“Financially, we’re starting to get back on track,” Jones said. “The organization is currently running on a positive, out of the red.”
The club oversees youth football teams and cheerleaders for children ages 8 to 13. In the last year, the league almost doubled from 170 to 260 kids, officials said.
A police search warrant filed in Waynesboro Circuit Court in mid-September described a series of “suspicious” transactions from June to September that caught the attention of a board member.
Club Football Coordinator J.R. Coffey said much of the embezzled money was cash from the concessions stand, leaving no paper trail.
“It doesn’t look like we’re going to be getting back anything near to what they took from the Quarterback Club and the kids,” Coffey said.
League leaders said they changed how they track profits from concessions sales to curb future losses. The organization raises money through car washes and concessions stand sales to purchase equipment and uniforms and to pay referees.
Jones said the club’s bylaws prohibit refilling the Hites’ positions until February. An election must determine replacements.
Under the Hites, the club made $600 a week from concessions, Coffey said. After other board members assumed control of the stands, profits increased by nearly 168 percent to $1,600, he said.
Brian Edwards, a Waynesboro police sergeant and a parent, described the embezzlement investigation as an “unwanted distraction” that took attention away from an otherwise good season. He did not work the case.
Edwards said parents with children in the program agree to a code of conduct before the season begins. His son has played five years.
“When we sign that, and then we hear that there’s alleged impropriety among certain board members and the funds, it’s very disheartening,” he said. “We want to make sure the money is going to the Quarterback Club, because we work so hard for it.”
Amber Hite appeared in Waynesboro court multiple times in 2008 and once in 2010 in civil cases in which payday lending and loan institutions pursued unpaid funds, in some cases by garnishing wages. She has appeared multiple times in Augusta County court for payment cases involving Augusta Health.
Amber Hite formerly was a sales representative at The News Virginian.
Attempts to reach the Hites for comment were unsuccessful.

Embezzlement investigation at St. Isidore's in Danville, California

Danville police are conducting an embezzlement investigation at St. Isidore Catholic Church, police confirmed Monday.Police Chief Steve Simpkins said the investigation started a few weeks ago after church officials contacted authorities. The investigation is complex and investigators hope to finish it soon, he said. No one has been arrested. Simpkins said that to avoid jeapordizing the case, he could not comment further.
A person answering the phone at the church said there would be no media comment.According to an email received by the Bay Area News Group on Monday, an announcement of the investigation was made to parishioners on Sunday by Pastor Gerard Moran.

Woman accused of embezzling from Hedge School PTA in Plymouth, Massachusetts

Police accused a North Plymouth woman of embezzling money from the Hedge Elementary School Parent Teacher Association.Amy Russell, 42, of 111 Forest Avenue Ext., was arrested Sunday night on warrants charging embezzlement by an association officer of more than $250 and embezzlement by an association officer of $250 or less.Capt. John Rogers said Russell was treasurer of the Hedge School PTA. She is accused of withholding money collected during the school’s yard sale and field day last May and June.Rogers said Russell refused repeated requests from the PTA to turn over the money. She was also arrested on four warrants from 1991 charging larceny by check of less than $250.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Former Finance Manager At DC Mosque Accused Of Embezzling "Hundreds Of Thousands" Of Dollars

According to published reports, Farzad Darui, 50, an Iranian-born US Citizen of Falls Church, Virginia and the former financial manager for The Islamic Center of Washington, D.C. is being sued again in federal court for allegedly embezzling "hundreds of thousands" of dollars from the Mosque. According to the complaint in the lawsuit, Darui altered legitimate signed checks to pay vendors by changing the name to entities he "owned and/or controlled." The complaint also asserted that Darui was employed as finance manager and bookkeeper from 1994 until 2006, when he was fired. The embezzlement allegedly began in 2000 and continued until his termination. The case was brought by authorities after the Mosque brought it to their attention and Darui was indicted in June 2007. However, the criminal case went to trial, but ended in a mistrial and was eventually the charges were dropped last month. At the time, it was alleged that Darui embezzled $430,000.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Booster club officer to face charge in embezzlement in Port Huron, Michigan

A woman accused of stealing money from high school sports boosters is expected to be arraigned
Oct. 6.The St. Clair County Prosecutor's Office has issued a warrant charging Carolyn Rhodes, former treasurer of the Marine City High School boosters club, with embezzlement of funds $1,000 to less than
$20,000.If convicted, she faces up to five years in prison, Prosecutor Mike Wendling said. He declined to
comment further.The Marine City Police Department started an investigation into missing money earlier this year after being contacted by club President Retha Jordon. In June, police Chief Don Tillery said the
case had been forwarded to the prosecutor's office for review.Jordon said the money was stolen over a two year period and that Rhodes no longer is affiliated with the club. Officials have said procedures -- such as
requiring two signatures on every check -- were put in place this summer to avoid future issues.
Rhodes did not return a phone message left Thursday afternoon

A Marine City High School Booster Club officer will be arraigned Oct. 6 on embezzlement charges.

Carrie Rhodes is scheduled to appear before Judge Richard Cooley at the 72nd District Court after being accused of pilfering Marine City Booster Club funds last June while serving as club treasurer.

St. Clair County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Mike Hulewicz said Rhodes is charged with one count of embezzlement, which carries a sentence of up to five years and/or a $10,000 fine or three times the amount embezzled.

Booster Club President Retha Jordan said Rhodes recently made her last installment on paying back the $35,000 she is accused of stealing by cashing phony checks. Although glad to see the money restored to the club account, Jordan said she is still waiting to see that Rhodes gets due punishment for her crime.

"It doesn't matter if she paid it back," she said. "I don't want to see a slap on the wrist or a misdemeanor, she needs to be reprimanded."

Jordan said she expects, at the very least, counseling and community service, with a probationary period.

"It should include counseling," she said. "She has to have a problem. They need to get her some help. Also, a letter of apology to the kids and she can't work around any money - ever."

Jordan has safeguards in place now that prevent any future mismanagement of funds. She will now be doing random audits and two signatures will be required on all documents. She is also making bank statements available to the parents, she added.

The Marine City Booster Club is a non-profit group that raises money to help provide for high school sports equipment the school district is unable to purchase. They raise money through concession stand sales and other fundraisers. The club is a separate entity from the East China schools, with a separate bank account and administrators. The "pay and play" athletic program funds go to the high school and are not part of the booster club.

The group nearly lost its charitable gaming license after the investigation, but Jordan said they were able to retain it to put on future Texas Hold'em events, which are one of the club's biggest fundraisers.

Jordan said the unfortunate incident has not deterred sports fans from donating to the club.

"Everyone has still been generous," she said. "We get big crowds at the concessions. First of all, they know it wasn't me. I was the one to do all this digging. And we've gotten good feedback, even from the principal."

The school district contacted the Marine City Police Department June 21 after an internal investigation led by Jordan pointed to the club treasurer using club funds for personal use. Police then turned over club financial records to the St. Clair County Prosecutor's Office.

In an earlier interview, Jordan said, "If everybody would be honest, this wouldn't have happened. We were on the honor system. We trusted you. You live and learn."

The school district hired accountant Glen McBride of McBride, Manley and Miiller to search the records to find the total amount of Rhodes' indiscretions.

Former club President Jim Dupuie said he never suspected Rhodes of diverting the funds because she supplied a monthly report - which he later learned was fabricated - of all the club's financial activities at every meeting. Rhodes was not supplying the actual bank statements at the time.

East China School District Director of Financing Barbara Haman said she recently "shared district-approved procedures for handling cash and making disbursements" with the various service groups working within the district, to help them avoid future incidents.

"They are good people who have good intentions," she said.

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania woman accused of embezzling parent group, church

A Bethlehem woman took $18,000 of from the East Hill Middle School Parent Association and tried to cover up the theft by stealing $13,000 from her church, police said.Donna F. Biggs, 40, of 2890 Fifth St., who was treasurer of the Parent Association until May of this year, was charged Friday with theft and forgery for allegedly engaging in a 14-month embezzlement scheme.From June 2009 until August 2010, Biggs allegedly diverted $18,854 from the Parent Association's bank account to her own accounts, and used cash from the Messiah Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bethlehem to disguise the thefts.
The Parent Association asked Biggs to turn over all receipts and bank statements in May, but it was not until August that she complied, according to the Bethlehem police arrest affidavit.
Even then, the records revealed she had just opened a new $14,115 bank account, on Aug. 19, in the Parent Association's name, the affidavit says. The money in that account allegedly came from her own bank account and from the church.
The president and board of the Parent Association asked city Patrolman Mark A. Surber, a school resource officer, to investigate. Surber worked with Lafayette Ambassador Bank to sort out the accounting, according to the affidavit.
Surber found that Biggs regularly provided the Parent Association with faked bank statements because the authentic statements would have revealed she was writing unauthorized checks to herself, the affidavit says.
The Rev. Eugene Sharkey, pastor of Messiah Evangelical Lutheran, said Biggs had no permission to transfer church money to the Parent Association, police said.
Biggs was arraigned Friday on charges of theft, theft by failure to make required disposition of funds, forgery and receiving stolen property. District Judge James J. Narlesky of Bethlehem released her on $50,000 unsecured bail.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Youth Soccer tries to bounce back in Healdsburg, California

While Healdsburg Police Officers investigate claims of embezzlement in the Healdsburg Youth Soccer League, board members are doing everything they can to ensure the kids aren’t affected by the sudden lack of resources.New youth soccer league president Aziz Zhari said that while he can’t discuss the details of the case due to the pending police investigation, he did say the club is $25,000 to $30,000 in debt and they are struggling to “clean up this thing,” he said.“Right now it’s a mess,” Zhari said this week. “He’s left us a lot of stuff that we have to take care of,” he said, referring to former board president Kyle Hoffman, who board members have accused of embezzling the funds that pay for soccer balls, uniforms, nets and other essential equipment.According to Healdsburg Police Lt. Kevin Young. “[The Healdsburg Youth Soccer League] has made a request for us to look into some concerns they have over the financial dealings,” he said. “We are in the process right now of reviewing the case and are awaiting financial information.” Young declined to name the party accused of embezzlement.But Zhari said the damage has already been done. “We don’t charge much. We charge each kid $110,” Zhari said. “We pay the city $30 and we use the rest to buy balls, nets, cones, uniforms, so there’s nothing left.”Zhari approached the City of Healdsburg at Monday night’s city council meeting to ask for some help in the form of a fee reduction.Zhari said while he understood the city is under strenuous financial times as well, he hoped Healdsburg could reduce the field maintenance fees by 25 or 50 percent.Councilmembers were unable to discuss the item that was not on the agenda, but did agree to discuss it at their next meeting on Oct. 4.Zhari said they are scheduling fundraisers and some organizations have already stepped forward to help the struggling non-profit organization.The San Jose Earthquakes donated $1,000 to the club, and also gave the organization $4,000 worth of tickets to the Oct. 20 Major League Soccer game, with 100 percent of the proceeds going directly to the HYSL.“We are getting buses so people don’t have to drive down to San Jose,” Zhari said.Adidas has also agreed to sponsor the Healdsburg league, donating 125 soccer balls and 150 jerseys.The club has about 300 kids participating this year, down from more than 700 just a few years ago.“The board just didn’t take care of some stuff,” Zhari said of the decline.But when approached by fellow board members two months ago when questions arose about the former president’s alleged misuse of funds, Zhari said there was no question the league had to continue providing for the kids.“When we heard about this, some of the board quit and some thought they should cancel the season, but we can’t let the kids down, what are they going to do, watch tv?” he said.
Zhari then stepped up from his position as Director of Coaches to League President to try to straighten things out.“I was always on the field and never got involved with the paperwork,” he said. “But now I am and now we are doing meetings every month to clean things up.”

Embezzlement: It Can Happen to You

What do Hendrick Health System, Cary Services, Pee Wee Jets Pop Warner Football Team and KGNZ Radio have in common? They are all in Abilene, Texas. They all have budgets (granted, they are very different sized budgets). And they all experienced embezzlement by trusted staff members in the last couple of years. You may think it can’t happen to you.

There are many ways to commit fraud. In the examples noted above, one group created an invoice conspiracy. Another ran herself two paychecks every pay period and used the company credit card for personal use. The next set used the group’s debit card for personal expenses and wrote checks to themselves. And finally, the accused is said to have forged the boss’s signature and stolen cash donations. Other methods include perpetrators creating fake vendor accounts, fraudulently authorizing overtime pay for themselves, inflating travel reimbursements, and even creating fake employees who happen to live at their addresses. Do not be lulled into believing your annual audit will find it. It probably won’t.

However, there are some things you can do to discourage it:

>> Check Backgrounds: Reference checks, credit checks and criminal background checks can uncover issues that could save you money if you take the time to do them before you hire.

>> Separate Duties: If you have the same person writing checks and reconciling bank statements or using the company credit card and reconciling those statements, you are at high risk for fraudulent activities. Cross train staff and shuffle responsibilities regularly. “Bookkeeper” and “Office Manager” are the most prevalent job titles of people convicted of embezzlement. No one person should be in charge of everything. While collusion is still a possibility, it’s much harder than just writing yourself a check.

>> Time Off: Many embezzlers appear to be dedicated employees who never take time off. Require vacations and time off as a matter of policy. Then make sure that someone else covers that task. Having a responsibility on pause during these planned departures can protect the embezzler. She may be floating happily at the lake (on your dime), confident that her job is too complicated for anyone else to take on in her absence.

>>    Require Multiple Signatures: This includes both checks and petty cash documents. Each signatory should verify the backup document independently. If one signature is just a rubber stamp of the first, internal control has been lost.

>> Audit by Surprise: Embezzling is a complicated business. To be very good at it, the perpetrators have to be very organized and intelligent. It would be easy for such a person to prepare for an annual audit done with a week’s notice. Conduct unannounced audits at least quarterly.

In a study by Marquet International, Ltd. (, the average duration of fraud schemes was 4.5 years. In the local examples, the average duration was 3.5 years. These are not spur-of-the-moment decisions or one-time occurrences. No manager wants to find that his or her trusted bookkeeper, office manager, or accountant violated their trust and pilfered their livelihood. The keys to ensuring this doesn’t happen to you are prevention, policies, and vigilance.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Camanche woman charged in Clinton, Iowa School District embezzlement case

A federal indictment has been returned against a Camanche woman in connection with missing Clinton School District funds.Denisa Babcock, 36, of Camanche, is charged with theft from a local government agency or organization receiving federal funds. The indictment alleges that from approximately Nov. 18, 2005, to Dec. 11, 2009, while an accountant at the Clinton School District, Babcock embezzled, stole or converted to her own use property in value of $5,000 or more belonging to the Clinton School District.
The indictment was announced by federal officials this morning.If convicted on the charge, Babcock faces a potential penalty of up to 10 years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, or both fine and imprisonment, a period of supervised release of not more than three years, a special assessment of $100, restitution and forfeiture.
This investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Clinton Police Department, and is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Iowa.

Auditor Investigates Possible Embezzlement in De Kalb, Mississippi

Font Size: The Mississippi Auditor's Office is investigating a case of possible embezzlement involving the Kemper County School District.
Superintendent Jackie Pollock says the district recently turned over information from an internal investigation on the matter to state officials. At this time Pollock says she cannot comment further. According to Kemper County authorities, so far, no charges have been filed in the case with local law enforcement.

San Francisco State University Cheerleading Coach Charged With Stealing $20K

San Francisco State University's cheerleading coach has pleaded not guilty to charges that she stole almost $20,000 from the college's cheerleading club.Prosecutors announced Wednesday that 23-year-old Ashlee Nicole Haley is charged with 12 felony counts of grand theft, 16 counts of obtaining money by false pretenses and one felony count of embezzlement.As coach, Haley handled team finances for the more than 20 cheerleaders on the squad.Authorities say Haley collected money from the cheerleaders for uniforms, training camps and other costs.Instead, prosecutors say she bought airline tickets, rent, clothes and other personal items.Several cheerleaders reported the allegations to campus police. Haley was released from jail on her recognizance Monday.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Father of accused Michigan State University Player charged

The father of the MSU football player accused in the $158,000 laptop theft ring is facing similar charges in Ann Arbor.Dion Sims’ father, Donald Lewis Sims Jr., the former business administrator at the University of Michigan’s Center for Afro American and African Studies, is facing four felony embezzlement charges. He’s accused of using U-M money to purchase $74,000 worth of computers and computer-related equipment, and for making $14,000 in other fraudulent purchases.Diane Brown, spokeswoman for the University of Michigan police, said this afternoon that the father was arrested and arraigned in June and faces an upcoming court date on the charges. She said he purchased at least 75 computers and 14 computer-related items – items for which the university was not reimbursed. The purchases happened between 2008 and 2010.“He was essentially in a position to be able to purchase laptops or computers and they were used for his own personal purposes,” Brown said.She wouldn’t comment on whether Sims sold the computers, saying such details are part of the investigation. But she said additional charges against others could be coming.“We don’t have any reason to believe anyone else at the university was involved,” she said.Brown said the university learned of the embezzlements from a “third party” from outside the university. She declined to say who.Brown said U-M police have collaborated with Detroit Public Schools, but said it’s unclear at this point whether the cases are related.Brown said Sims had worked at U-M since 1990 and earned $66,868 as the business administrator. He left his job in March, but U-M officials aren’t saying whether he was fired.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Attorneys satisfied with Rev. Armstrong plea agreement in Colorado

Attorneys for the Rev. Donald Armstrong and the Pueblo District Attorney’s office were pleased Monday with the plea agreement in the criminal case involving the former rector of Grace and St. Stephen’s Church in Colorado Springs.A Fourth Judicial District grand jury indicted Armstrong in May 2009 on 20 felony counts of embezzling $392,000 from Grace Church. Armstrong on Friday pled no contest to one felony count, according to El Paso County court files. Though Armstrong in his plea doesn’t admit guilt, the court views it in a legal sense as a guilty plea.As part of the agreement, Armstrong admitted guilt to a new charge, misdemeanor theft, said Pueblo District Attorney Bill Thiebaut. A sentencing hearing on this charge will happen before the end of the year.Armstrong’s sentence could include a fine of up to $5,000 and up to 18 months in the El Paso County Jail. Misdemeanor charges are brought for thefts between $500 and $1,000. On the felony count, Armstrong has been placed on four-year’s probation. If violated, he will be a convicted felon and could face four to 12 years in prison, Thiebaut said. A restitution hearing will be held, probably in January, to determine how much money Armstrong must pay back to Grace Church.Both sides claimed victory in the plea bargain.“It’s about as close to a dismissal as we could get,” said Armstrong’s attorney, Dennis Hartley.“This was a just solution,” Thiebaut said.Larry Hitt, chancellor of the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado, said in a statement: “We believe Armstrong’s entry of a ‘no contest’ plea to a class 3 felony theft charge and his effective guilty pleas to a class 1 misdemeanor theft charge constitute a tacit acknowledgement of the truth of the criminal charges against him.”Armstrong, 61, was accused of using church and trust money to fund his two children’s education while rector of Grace and St. Stephen’s between July 1999 and March 2006. The allegations led the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado to place Armstrong on leave in December 2006. He was defrocked the following year.In May 2007, the Colorado Springs police began its criminal investigation of Armstrong, resulting in a Fourth Judicial District grand jury returning a 20-count indictment of felony theft charges against him two years later.The criminal trial was supposed to begin in October, but several weeks ago the DA’s office initiated talks to reach a plea agreement.The Pueblo District Attorney’s office is prosecuting the case because of a conflict of interest with the Springs DA’s office. Former Springs DA John Newsome is a former member of Armstrong’s church vestry.Hartley said the DA’s office started talks because it knew it had a bad case. “There was a real question of what could be proved against Don Armstrong (at trial),” he said.The biggest factor, Hartley said, was that 19 of the 20 counts might be dismissed due to the statute of limitations, which is three years in a Colorado criminal case.Thiebaut had no comment about the statute of limitations issue.Armstrong agreed to the plea bargain, Hartley said, because it was a toss up how a jury would react to the evidence. “If you get a bad jury or bad breaks at trial, you can get an adverse verdict,” Hartley said.Hartley indicated it was unlikely Armstrong will have to pay anything near the $392,000 alleged in the felony charge. He said the DA’s office included a lot of costs Armstrong had nothing do with.The criminal case isn’t the first controversy involving Armstrong and the Episcopal Church.After Armstrong was defrocked, he became in March 2007 a priest within the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, a conservative province in the Anglican Communion. His Anglican breakaway parish occupied Grace Church downtown until a Fourth Judicial District court ruling in March 2009 forced them out.Armstrong renamed his parish St. George’s Anglican Church and rented property to worship at in the Mountain Shadows area.At the time, Armstrong said the break was due to theological differences with the Episcopal Church, the U.S. arm of the Anglican Communion.Armstrong also said that the theft accusations were manufactured by the diocese because of his criticism of the Episcopal Church’s acceptance of gays in church leadership roles and liberal interpretation of Scripture.Those ideas resurfaced in a statement on the plea bargain posted on St. George’s website.We have become convinced even more strongly that controversies within (the Episcopal Church) were the catalyst for the Diocese’s investigation and complaint, for the purpose of silencing our bold and successful defense of orthodoxy through our parish’s life, discipline, and teaching ministry,” the statement says.On Sunday, Armstrong and his St. George’s congregation were upbeat about the plea agreement, sources say. Many in the parish hugged Armstrong and wished him well.
St. George’s member Colleen Miller said she’s “relieved and excited” by the outcome.Edwin Montgomery, a vestry member at Grace and St. Stephen’s from 2003 to 2006, said the theft accusations against Armstrong were “a vendetta from the word go.”“My support for Father Armstrong is firm,” he said.

Sorority board president accused of embezzlement in California

A former University of the Pacific student is being accused of embezzling thousands of dollars from her sorority as the board's president. San Joaquin County prosecutors say an arrest warrant has been obtained for 39-year-old Lina Lee of Union City on suspicion of taking as much as $114,507 from the university's Iota Gamma chapter of Alpha Phi. Prosecutors have charged Lee with grand theft and falsifying corporate books. The arrest warrant says Lee told Stockton police that she paid her landscaper, made personal loans from the sorority's bank and wrote checks to cash while keeping the chapter's books. The warrant says she told a detective she used the sorority's money because "it was more convenient" than using her own, and she may have "lost track" of how much she took.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Maine embezzler to return money

A former bookkeeper for a nonprofit school food service has been ordered to repay $20,000 after pleading guilty to theft from the organization. The Sun Journal of Lewiston says 57-year-old Jane Dutton of Fryeburg will not serve any jail time. But she was ordered Friday to pay back $20,000 to the volunteer-run Maine School Food Services Association.Dutton entered the guilty plea Friday in Oxford County Superior Court. She was charged with embezzling the money between August 2005 and July 2007 while serving as the association's treasurer and bookkeeper.Under a plea agreement approved by Justice Robert Clifford, Dutton must repay the stolen money over four years. If she's successful, she can withdraw her plea to the felony count and plead to a misdemeanor count of theft and pay a $500 fine.


A top St. John's University official embezzled more than $1 million from the Queens, New York school, spending the stolen lucre on jaunts to casinos, lingerie shopping sprees at Victoria's Secret - and even submitting her son's law-school tuition as an expense, authorities charged yesterday. Cecilia Chang, 57, a university vice president for international relations and dean of the Institute for Asian Studies, wooed potential donors in the Far East to give money to the university, sometimes turning in expense chits for more than $50,000 a month, prosecutors said. But some of the expenses were charged to Chang's personal credit card from a Taiwanese bank, where she ran up myriad personal charges and passed them on to the university by submitting phony statements, according to the 205-count indictment. Chang, who worked at the Hillcrest campus for more than 20 years and had the power to bestow scholarships, even tried to grant her son Steven a free ride at the university's law school, but was forced to repay the money when officials overruled her, Queens DA Richard Brown said. Still, she charged the tuition to the Taiwanese credit card, and submitted false statements demanding reimbursement for travel and entertainment expenses to cover the more-than-$40,000 cost, Brown said. Chang was caught after a 2009 internal audit revealed discrepancies in her expense account, Brown said. The veep, who pulled in between $130,000 and $140,000 a year, was suspended in January and fired in June, a school spokesman said. When auditors acquired actual statements from the Taiwanese bank, they found personal charges at casinos, Macy's, Home Depot, supermarkets, pharmacies and fast-food joints, Assistant DA Gregory Pavlides said at Chang's arraignment in Queens Supreme Court yesterday. Among the alleged scams was her creation of the nonprofit Global Development Initiative Foundation, which she represented to be part of the university but was solely controlled by Chang. She allegedly misled a Saudi prince to give the foundation $250,000 for a multicultural program to promote understanding - indicating that it was part of the school - and then she tried to score another $500,000 from him. Chang was charged with grand larceny, forgery, criminal possession of a forged instrument, and falsifying business records. Pavlides said she was likely to face federal charges, as well. He called Chang a flight risk, noting her two passports, and the fact she'd placed her seven-bedroom home in Jamaica Estates, Queens, on the market for $2.9 million. Chang was ordered held on $1 million bail by Queens Supreme Court Justice James Griffin. Authorities say Cecilia Chang tried to pass off personal expenses as business-related by submitting phony credit card statements to St. John's University, allegedly embezzling more than $1 million. Prosecutors say she spent the money for:

* Trips to casinos
* Victoria's Secret shopping sprees
* Tuition for her son at St. John's Law School
* Home Depot and Macy's purchases
* Shopping at supermarkets, pharmacies and fast food restaurants

Pontiac, Illinois library to review hiring policies after theft charges

The Pontiac Library Board likely will review its hiring policies after a recent investigation into embezzlement allegations against a former director showed he had a previous conviction. Eric Colclasure, 42, of Pontiac has been charged with stealing more than $10,000 from the city library. He remains jailed in lieu of posting $10,000.Prosecutors allege Colclasure misdirected rent checks paid by Heartland Community College to the library between April and June. The Normal-based college rents a portion of the library building, 211 E. Madison St., for its satellite campus.The charges against Colclasure allege that he deposited rent checks into an Odell Public Library account. Colclasure also served as Odell's library director independently of his job in Pontiac. City attorney Alan Schrock said Pontiac and Odell libraries are separate entities and do not have any agreements in place that would share funds or personnel.Assistant State's Attorney Scott Terry said police are conducting an investigation into Colclasure's activities at the Odell library, but he has not received any final reports. Schrock said he advised the library board to improve its hiring policies more than a year ago. The library is operated by a board separate from the Pontiac City Council, but it is supported through a tax levied by the city. Colclasure started working at the library part time but was hired last year as director. A background check that would have detected his 2003 felony conviction from Cook County was not completed when Colclasure was hired. Schrock said the board only learned of Colclasure's previous felony conviction Tuesday when Colclasure appeared before a Livingston County judge for a bond hearing. "I advised them long before yesterday's development that we need to review the hiring practices," Schrock said. Schrock said the position of library director was not responsible for handling any money, but authorities say Colclasure may have intercepted checks in the mail. "We have a treasurer who is responsible for that (handling money)," Schrock said. "Now, the financial controls we have in place helped us detect what was happening quickly." The misdirected money was returned so the library and the city did not suffer a financial loss.

What Is Church Embezzlement?

Due to the many reports dealing with religious institutions and embezzlement, you may be wondering: What is church embezzlement? According to the Meriam-Webster dictionary, to "embezzle" involves appropriating funds or property for ones own use. Therefore, church embezzlement means that funds or properties donated to a religious organization are misappropriated for the personal use or advantage of those in charge. Moreover, church embezzlement can take various forms.

Misuse of collection funds equals embezzlement. Church member generally donate to their religious institution to help care for expenses associated with the use of the building and its maintenance. When a person or persons in charge take collection money for their personal use and don’t record it in their books, the result is church embezzlement.

Misuse of a church debit card also translates to church embezzlement. Another form of embezzlement in a church is when a pastor or church staff member uses the debit card to pay for personal expenses, such as lunch, snacks, bills or entertainment. Furthermore, using the debit card to pay for gas for the family car, personal trips and furnishings for his home are forms of embezzlement.

Forged checks is another form of church embezzlement. This form of embezzlement occurs when a church member writes checks to vendors or contractors. He endorses the checks himself and then deposits the check in his own bank account.

Misappropriation of church property is embezzlement. If a member donates a property to the church and the pastor or another church member uses that property or sells it and takes the proceeds for his own use, he is guilty of church embezzlement.

Church embezzlement can occur without the person knowing it. However, embezzlement generally requires premeditation. A person guilty of embezzlement normally takes precautions to avoid detection. Church embezzlement is a serious charge. If found guilty, a person can spend prison time.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

'Gamblaholic' official admits $1.2M theft in Oklahoma

A former head of audits for an Oklahoma agency overseeing school real estate has admitted embezzling $1.2 million to feed a gambling addiction.Roger Q. Melson Jr. pleaded guilty to 174 counts Friday, The Oklahoman reported. His lawyer, Billy Bock, called him a "gamblaholic" and said he is recovering."He doesn't gamble anymore, and he goes to several support groups," Bock said. "He's been humbled." Melson, 56, director of audits at the Commissioners of the Land Office, set up an account in his name at BancFirst, describing himself as doing business as Commissioner of the Land Office. BancFirst has agreed to give $250,000 to educational foundations to settle a negligence claim.The plea agreement did not specify a sentence, leaving it in the hands of Oklahoma County District Judge Kenneth Watson. Prosecutors say they will seek a prison sentence and full restitution when Melson is sentenced Nov. 9.Bock said Melson, who has already given the state his savings and retirement account and works as a janitor at a church, will have a hard time repaying the entire amount."He would have to live a very long time to pay it back," the defense attorney said.
A gambling addict was sentenced Tuesday to 10 years in prison for embezzling $1.16 million from a state agency that financially supports schools, colleges and universities.

Roger Q. Melson Jr., 56, of Edmond had sought only probation so he could be a counselor to other problem gamblers and could work to make restitution.

Oklahoma County District Judge Kenneth Watson refused, saying that a sentence of only probation or weekends in jail would send the wrong message.

"You should have stopped," the judge said

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Top 7 Resources to Combat Church Embezzlement

As incidents continue to spring up, we’ve compiled the Top 7 resources church leaders should use to prevent embezzlement opportunities and combat individuals who might attempt to steal:

7. The National Association of Church Business Administration. Phill Martin, NACBA’s deputy chief executive officer, is a Contributing Editor to Your Church. NACBA offers ongoing certification that covers a variety of subjects, including church financial management. The organization also recently released “Weeds in the Garden,” a book about preventing fraud in churches.
6. The Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. Dan Busby, the ECFA’s president, is an Editorial Advisor for Church Law & Tax Report, Church Finance Today, and Your Church. The ECFA publishes best practices on its website, as well as a quarterly publication, Focus on Accountability. The organization also plans to host numerous regional workshops throughout the country in 2010 focused on establishing higher standards in church finance and governance, among other things.
5. Secure Your Church Finances, an electronic training resource from This free online assessment will help you determine whether your church’s money is at risk.
4. Safe Ways to Handle Your Church’s Money, an electronic training resource from The free article from this resource outlines several initial steps to take.
3. Church Finance Today, a monthly newsletter written by senior editor Richard Hammar, one of today’s leading thinkers on church law and finance matters, covers key financial and tax developments that church leaders should know.
2. Chapter 7 in Richard Hammar’s four-volume series, Pastor, Church & Law (4th ed. 2008) (also available by calling 1-800-222-1840). Chapter 7 addresses the following topics:
• Definition of embezzlement
• Why churches are vulnerable
• How embezzlement occurs
• Reducing the risk of embezzlement
• Responding to allegations of embezzlement
• The consequences of embezzlement
• Confidentiality and privileged communications
• Informing the congregation
• Avoiding false accusations
• The Employee Polygraph Protection Act
1. Essential Guide to Church Finances (Christianity Today International, 2009). This new book, co-written by university accounting professor Richard Vargo and Vonna Laue, a CPA and partner at nonprofit accounting firm Capin Crouse, maps out how to plan and budget, how to set performance measurements, how to create church financial reports, how to conduct church audits, and how to minimize the risk for embezzlement.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Officer With Virginia Christian Missionary Group Indicted on Embezzlement Counts

A grand jury in Loudoun County, Virginia has indicted the chief administrative officer of a non-profit Christian missionary group on 17 counts of embezzlement for allegedly having stolen over $700,000.Eun Tae Lee, 50, is accused of having written checks from the account of Seed International, Inc. to his own personal account. According to authorities, Lee used the embezzled funds to bankroll a “lavish lifestyle,” which include a second residence and a Porsche Cayenne sport-utility vehicle.Seed International, a missionary group sponsored by the Korean Central Presbyterian Church in Vienna, Virginia, is funded by numerous Korean churches around the world. Its attorney, F. Douglas Ross, said that the groups is “an international humane organization that provides missionary services and support across the globe.”The company’s annual report to the Virginia State Corporation Commission listed Won Sang Lee as the president of Seed, and Chang Soo Ro as the secretary. Both are also involved with the Korean Central Presbyterian Chruch, Won Sang Lee as the retired senior pastor and Chang Soo Ro as its current senior pastor.After some of Seed’s officials noticed that money was missing from the missionary group’s account, they confronted Lee, who allegedly produced fake bank statements and other financial documents in an attempt to demonstrate that he had invested the church’s funds. Officials later learned from a representative of the bank that the paperwork was phony, according to an affidavit issued by the Loudoun Sheriff’s Office.
In April, Authorities searched Lee’s home in Fairfax county, as well as an apartment in Annandale which Lee is said to have rented using the ill-gotten funds, and confiscated documents and computers. At the time, Lee appeared before a magistrate to face one charge of embezzlement.The Loudoun Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office said last week that, after a preliminary hearing in June, a grand jury indicted Lee on 17 counts of embezzlement. His case is set for trial on March 14, 2011.Loudoun Commonwealth’s Attorney James E. Plowman called the case “very troubling, given the significant amount of funds that are involved, and particularly aggravating, given the charitable nature of the work the victims perform.”It is unclear how long the embezzlement may have lasted, or where donations may have originated. Lee was first listed as an officer of the non-profit group beginning with its annual report of 2008.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Kalispell, Montana woman pleads guilty to embezzlement

A 55-year-old Kalispell woman has pleaded guilty to embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from a therapeutic boarding school. Cynthia Jane Rasmussen pleaded guilty to wire fraud Wednesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah Lynch in Missoula. Sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 18. Under the plea agreement, Rasmussen admits embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from Montana Academy in Marion, where she worked from 2004 through February 2008. Prosecutors say Rasmussen wrote herself multiple payroll checks, increased her salary when she processed the payroll electronically and used a company credit card for personal expenses. Court records say she continued to issue herself checks from Montana Academy after the thefts were discovered and she was placed on administrative leave.

Man gets probation in Appleton East's, Wisconsin Patriot Athletic Club embezzlement case

The former treasurer of Appleton East High School’s booster club will spend two years on probation after embezzling thousands from the group since taking the position in 2003.Michael K. Metcalf, 50, was sentenced in Outagamie County Court on Monday on two misdemeanor theft counts. Metcalf was given a two-year deferred prosecution agreement on a felony-level count of theft. Officials would dismiss the felony if he abides by terms of the agreement, which include no additional criminal activity during the two-year period. Metcalf had no previous criminal record. “This is a pretty bad situation, and he doesn’t want to sugarcoat it,” defense attorney Vince Biskupic said. “It’s a significant breach of trust.”Members of Appleton East’s Patriot Athletic Club went to police in January.A member of the club became suspicious of bank account discrepancies, and when obtaining monthly statements, she noticed two checks for $1,000 each made out by Metcalf to himself.Metcalf later told police he lost his job, fell behind on bills and began taking money from the accounts to meet his obligations. He said he always tried to pay the money back, the criminal complaint says.After going through records, Metcalf acknowledged taking nearly $42,000 without permission for his personal use through a number of checks dating to 2003.Metcalf has continued to repay the club this year, and payment of funds taken was listed as a condition of his probation. While the club will be made financially whole, it’s damaged in other ways, Judge Mitch Metropulos said. The thefts could jeopardize future donations. “What you did had a profound effect on the Appleton East community,” Metropulos said. Metcalf said he had no excuses and wasn’t looking for sympathy or forgiveness. He said it’s difficult to look at Appleton East parents and realize, “I stole from that guy’s kid.” “This has really humbled me and forced me to take a long look at myself,” Metcalf said.

Officials used Detroit schools funds for mortgage payments, home goods, prosecutor says

A former Detroit public schools principal, a former accountant, and a Detroit police officer are being charged with embezzling nearly $150,000 in school funds.Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy announced today that Gwendolyn Miller, former principal at Randolph Career and Technical Center is being charged with embezzlement by a public official, and embezzling more than $1,000. She also allegedly had a school furnace installed in her home by a school employee and took merchandise from the school’s boutique. Miller is accused of taking a total of $1,447 in goods and money.The accountant, Eugenia Rose Hollimon, is facing six charges for allegedly using school money to pay more than $29,000 on her home mortgage. She also used a DPS credit card, and allowed her son to make more than $17,000 in purchases on the card. Her son, Eric Hollimon, faces four charges in connection with making purchases on the Sam’s Club Card. Robert Gibson, a friend of Eugenia Hollimon, and former Detroit Police department officer in the communications department, allegedly purchased over $100,000 worth of home improvement supplies and electronics for his home and rental properties. Worthy was joined by Robert Bobb, DPS emergency financial manager, in announcing the charges today. “A principal of a school is supposed to be its educational leader, but its moral and ethical center. A police officer is sworn to uphold the law. We trust our accountants to guard finances ethically,” Worthy said. “The evidence in this case will show that a principal, a school accountant, and a Detroit Police officer stole nearly $150,000 from some of the poorest school children in the nation.” Arrangements are being made for the defendants to turn themselves in to police.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Dismissed Buffalo, New York whistle-blower sues parish for breach of contract

A parish business manager fired last summer after raising concerns to the Erie County District Attorney's Office about finances at a Catholic church in South Buffalo is now suing the parish.Marc J. Pasquale filed a complaint in State Supreme Court arguing that St. Teresa parish on Seneca Street breached its contract with him.The contract runs through 2013, and the complaint said that Pasquale is owed $105,626 in wages and benefits over the remainder of the agreement.When the parish administrator, the Rev. Fred R. Voorhes, declined to fire Pasquale in August 2009, officials with the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo stepped in and removed both Voorhes and Pasquale.Both men had raised concerns to the diocese regarding financial irregularities in the parish under a previous pastor and bookkeeper, including shredded documents and missing computer records and weekly collection sheets.Pasquale, hired in 2008 as business manager and religious education director at St. Teresa, ultimately took his concerns to the DA's office. Shortly after that, he was fired.Diocesan officials have maintained in past statements that there was no malfeasance in the parish and the timing of Pasquale's firing was unrelated to his contacting the district attorney. They have declined to elaborate on the reason for the dismissals.So far, the DA's office -- which has pursued several embezzlement cases in other Catholic parishes and schools -- hasn't lodged any charges in connection with St. Teresa Church.According to the lawsuit, Pasquale was due to earn about $22,500 in base pay, plus health benefits, in his first year on the job and was to get an annual 4 percent raise in subsequent years of the contract.
The suit for breach of contract claims Pasquale was wrongfully terminated without cause or explanation and seeks $105,626 in compensation, as well as court fees.Pasquale said in an interview that he does not wish to punish the parish and wasn't seeking punitive damages. He initially sought to sue the Diocese of Buffalo, but according to nonprofit corporate laws, the parish is considered the defendant party in the case."It wasn't my intention to hurt them in any way. I only want what I was entitled to," said Pasquale, who called his salary and benefits package "very modest.""The irony of the situation is that this was all instigated at a diocesan level and the parishioners end up being the folks left holding the bag," he added.Pasquale remains employed as director of religious education at St. Aloysius Church in Springville. He is being represented by the law firm of Mattar, D'Agostino & Gottlieb.The current pastor of St. Teresa, the Rev. James B. Cunningham, referred a call about the lawsuit to the diocese, which issued a prepared statement."Mr. Pasquale's employment was terminated, it was terminated lawfully, and he is not entitled to any further compensation," the diocese said.

A diocesan spokesman said there was no further comment.

Ayala, California basketball booster says he's innocent of embezzlement

An Ayala High School basketball booster accused of embezzlement said in an interview Wednesday that he's innocent of criminal charges.Donald Williamson said that during his two-month stint last year as president of the booster club for the Chino Hills school's girls basketball program, he withdrew money from the club's bank account to reimburse himself for expenses incurred as president.He claims he had no "criminal intent," and didn't know he was violating club rules or the law."Whatever I was doing, I was doing for the program," said Williamson, 49. "I was hustling for the girls."Williamson's comments came after an arraignment in Chino Superior Court, in which he pleaded not guilty to two felonies filed last month by prosecutors.He faces charges of embezzlement and grand theft. Both charges allege he took more than $400.Judge Gerard S. Brown appointed the San Bernardino County Public Defender's Office to represent him after Williamson told the judge his monthly income was $221.Williamson, of Los Angeles, is next due in court Tuesday for a pre-preliminary hearing."I'm not confessing now," he said after the hearing. "I don't feel I did anything wrong. "Deputy District Attorney Steve Mitchell, the prosecutor assigned to Williamson's case, declined to respond to his comments."We'll just let the facts of the case come out at the preliminary hearing, if it gets that far," Mitchell said.In an extensive interview, Williamson described himself as a "great father" who works hard to help his daughters' sports programs. He acknowledged that he's served numerous prison terms, but he said he was honest with the basketball program about his past and no longer commits crimes."I truly regret it turned out this way," he said. Williamson said he first became involved in the booster club at Ayala in fall 2008, during his daughter's freshman year at the school. He said he's a professional chef who owns a mobile barbecue business, and he used his cooking skills to boost annual revenue at the team's snack bar from $800 to $3,800. Because of his success running the snack bar, he said other boosters encouraged him to become more involved in the club. The following season, he said he ran unopposed to become the club's president.After his election, he said the past president had debit cards made for him and the club's new treasurer allowed them to access the club's bank account. He said reimbursement rules were never explained to him. During his time as president - from October to December - Williamson said he worked for the club six days a week for six to eight hours a day. He said he received no compensation.Midway through his tenure, he moved to Inglewood. After his move, he said he drove frequently between Chino Hills and Inglewood.He said that in addition to running the snack bar, he solicited donations and sponsorships for the program. He said the club's bank account ballooned to nearly $9,000 while he was president.Williamson said he withdrew money from the account to cover his gas expenses. He recalled making three withdrawals: for $300, $200 and $40."I don't feel I've done anything wrong," Williamson said. "You gave me this position and didn't explain the position fully."Williamson said he resigned the position in December after the club's board members questioned the way he handled the club's finances.In arguing his innocence, Williamson noted that after the alleged embezzlement, there was several thousand dollars left in the account."If I steal something, I'm gonna go all out," he said.He said he isn't open to a plea bargain, and he wants to take his case to trial."I just want to show the jury and the court that there's no criminal intent," he said.

Schoeneck, Pennsylvania Moravian Church treasurer charged with theft intended to pay back money, according to attorney

The Schoeneck Moravian Church treasurer charged with stealing almost $116,000 from his church over three years was financially struggling and hoped to make enough money investing the stolen cash to pay off the church's mortgage, his defense attorney said today.Dennis J. Solt, 60, of the 4600 block of Hillview Drive in Lower Nazareth Township, was charged in connection with the thefts Thursday. He is free after posting 10 percent of his $25,000 bail.Solt, who has no prior criminal record, has already repaid $40,000 of the money and regrets his actions, his defense attorney Gail Marr said."He is very remorseful about the situation and never intended for it to happen," Marr said.Solt's business tanked, he was struggling financially and he started using the money to help fund his day trading, she said. He intended on making a profit off the investments and paying back the money but it got out of hand, Marr said."He planned to return it and pay off the mortgage for the church property itself," Marr said. "He never intended to take money and keep it. It was always a matter of trying to increase it and return it."The Upper Nazareth Township church discovered the thefts during an in-house audit in February, said church attorney Richard Santee, who serves as legal counsel for the Moravian Church.Solt was immediately relieved of his duties and Santee contacted District Attorney John Morganelli to investigate. Before an audit was completed, Solt asked for a meeting with church officials and admitted to the thefts and promised restitution, Santee said.Marr said her client isn't contesting the charges against him but may disagree with the amount of money the church says is missing.In May a certified public accountant audited the church accounts and found Solt had issued 188 bank drafts to himself and recorded them as payments to a variety of people or businesses, according to court records. Solt was the church treasurer when the thefts occurred between Jan. 1, 2007, and Feb. 4, records say.The congregation, which has about 400 adult members, wrestled with the situation, Santee said."It is a very difficult time. The church continues to be sympathetic to Mr. Solt and his family," Santee said. "On the other hand, we live in the real world and those who are in leadership in the church have a fiduciary responsibility. I think they have done their best to walk that tightrope between the sensibility of mercy and forgiveness and being accountable."Santee noted he is not a member of the church but he believes the stolen money represents a significant piece of its annual budget. The church responded to the problem, members have rolled up their sleeves and gone back to work, Santee said.Officials are exploring whether insurance could cover the loss, he said. The church did require two signatures on checks as a safeguard, but there was a threshold Solt managed to circumvent, Santee said.Solt is charged with two counts of theft and a single count of receiving stolen property — third-degree felonies — and misapplication of entrusted property, a second-degree misdemeanor.

Kennedy, Minn., woman sentenced for church theft

A woman who admitted to stealing nearly $30,000 from the Maria Lutheran Church in Kennedy, Minn., was sentenced today to 30 days in jail and 10 years of supervised probation. Margie Holmgren, who was the treasurer of the church, was ordered to pay back the money she embezzled, said Kittson County Deputy Mark Wilwant who attended today's hearing.Holmgren, 48, of Kennedy, will serve her jail time in installments over the course of three years, Wilwant said. Holmgren was charged April 2 with three counts of felony theft. She later reached a plea agreement that called for her to be sentenced on one count and receive a stay of adjudication on the other two counts for 10 years.

A pastor accused of stealing more than $1 million from his former Ohio church took the stand on September 2, 2010 to testify in his defense.

A pastor accused of stealing more than $1 million from his former church took the stand on Thursday morning to testify in his defense.David Thompson was the former pastor of The World of Pentecost Church on East Main Street, 10TV's Tanisha Mallett reported.Prosecutors said between 1998 and 2007, Thompson falsified tax records and stole money from the church to use for his own personal expenses.Thompson testified that he used money from the church's building fund for his lifestyle, but said it mostly went to run the church. Thompson said he had the authority to use the funds."I felt as the pastor and as the overseer I was mandated first and foremost from God and also from the bylaws that I was to take care of the welfare of the church, and I put more emphasis on the people versus a building," Thompson said. Prosecutors said Thompson handled two funds at the church: the building fund, which was money for maintaining the church and the assistance fund, made up of tithes and offerings from the congregation, which was the only funding source to be used for his salary.Prosecutors allege that Thompson co-mingled those accounts and used them all for himself. "I did not take building fund money out from the building fund and spend it on myself," he said. Thompson said that between 1998 and 2007 he spent tens of thousands of dollars on personal items, including four cars, private school for his children, and a boat and a pool for his house but said his spending adhered to the church's bylaws.He admitted on the stand that he drained the church of all its money and he apologized. "To this day I'm still very, very, sorry," Thompson said. If found guilty, Thompson faces up to 87 years in prison.

Dade City, Florida pastor pleads guilty in embezzlement case

A Dade City pastor is accused of embezzling more than $800,000 from a union investment fund he managed and funneling at least some of the money to his church.Gregory Sims, 38, pleaded guilty in federal court this week to theft or embezzlement of an employee benefit plan. The charge carries a possible five-year prison sentence, though Sims' plea agreement emphasizes repaying the money he took from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 915, based in Tampa.The plea agreement says Sims, who was pastor of Crossroads Church on Clinton Avenue, began working for a company called Antares Staffing in late 2007. Antares was a subsidiary of Medical Mutual Services LLC, which managed the IBEW's health, welfare, pension and vacation funds.Sims' responsibilities included keeping financial records, reconciling accounts and issuing checks. He worked for Antares until January 2009, when he was fired. In June of that year, the plea deal says, an audit of IBEW funds turned up 11 checks from the union's accounts to Crossroads Church totaling $813,142.17."After unlawfully diverting the money from the IBEW Fund to the Crossroads Church accounts that he controlled, Sims disbursed the embezzled IBEW Fund money for his personal benefit and for the use of his parishioners and associates," the plea agreement says.To try to hide his embezzlement, Sims manipulated the bookkeeping to show payments to entities other than Crossroads Church, the agreement says.Sims could not be reached Thursday. His attorney, David Weisbrod of Tampa, did not return a message seeking comment. A message left at the church also was not returned, and it was not known whether Sims is still affiliated with the church.The plea agreement says Sims is on the hook to repay the full amount. He will be sentenced Sept. 27.

Sentencing delayed for former Otsego, Michigan school official charged with embezzling

A former Otsego Public Schools operations director who pleaded guilty last spring to embezzling money from the district could end up with a lesser charge and a lighter sentence under an agreement reached Friday in the Allegan County Circuit Court.Thomas Matthews, 46, pleaded guilty on May 7 to one count of embezzling between $1,000 and $20,000, which is punishable by up to five years in prison and fines of up to $10,000 or three times the amount embezzled, whichever is greater.On Friday, Judge Kevin Cronin agreed to delay his sentencing of Matthews until March 25.Under the agreement, Matthews will be on probation until his sentencing. If he complies with the terms of his bond, his charge could be reduced to a misdemeanor of embezzling less than $1,000, which is punishable by up to a year in jail and two years of probation. Matthews has been free on bond since May. Allegan County Prosecutor Frederick Anderson said Matthews’ attorney, Mikel McEwen, requested the delayed sentencing. Anderson said he is satisfied with the agreement, based on Matthews’ public service and his clean record prior to the embezzlement.McEwen declined to comment. Matthews paid the full restitution of $22,916 in May. On Friday, Cronin also ordered Matthews to pay $1,748 in fines and court costs as part of the agreement. Anderson said sentencings may be delayed to within a year after a guilty plea. Matthews, who was the Otsego’s operations director before his job was eliminated in June 2009, cashed at least three checks that the district received from renting out a school bus each summer to Twin Lakes Reformed Church in Alamo Township. He told the court in May that he cashed checks that were worth a total of $22,916, dating back to 2004. Otsego Superintendent Dennis Patzer said the financial discrepancies weren’t discovered until late September 2009. Matthews was originally charged on Dec. 7 with three counts of embezzling between $1,000 and $20,000.

Former Montco, Pennylvania fire academy official sent to prison for embezzlement

A former Montgomery County Fire Academy official who admitted embezzling $168,165 from Montgomery County Chiefs of Police Association and Montgomery County Fire Advisory Board funds he managed was sentenced to prison Wednesday.Robert M. Linsinbigler Jr., 55, who pleaded guilty to theft and forgery charges Feb. 23, was sentenced by Judge Steven T. O’Neill to 10 to 23 months in prison and seven years’ probation. Previously, he signed over his $120,000 county pension to put toward restitution and may also be forced to sell his East Norriton home to pay the rest.At his sentencing hearing Wednesday, the defendant’s wife, Patricia Linsinbigler, testified that in the past few years her husband “drank every day” and became distant from her and the family.The former official has been in treatment with Alcoholics Anonymous and hasn’t consumed alcohol for more than a year, according to court testimony.Linsinbigler, who has completed eight steps of a 12-step treatment program, testified that in recent years he drank beer at lunch and stayed out drinking after work.“It was a seven-day-a-week thing,” he said.The East Norriton man said he had lost about 80 pounds since his arrest.Between 2001 and 2009, while he worked as director of the fire academy campus at in the Conshohocken section of Plymouth, he wrote fraudulent checks to Countryside to make payments on his mortgage, a home equity loan and for personal expenses, according to court papers. Linsinbigler had worked for Montgomery County for 32 years before he was arrested for the fraud scheme. At the fire academy, he oversaw training programs for firefighters, police and other first responders.
Two of the accounts he bilked were set up to train county first responders. Since the 1970s, the Chiefs of Police Association has operated the Emergency Vehicle Operators Course, a comprehensive driver training program for county police officers. In the 1990s, the program was expanded to include training for ambulance and fire truck drivers. Course tuition was paid for by county municipalities, and the funds were deposited in EVOC’s bank account, according to the criminal complaint.Linsinbigler also managed finances for the Fire Advisory Board, which is responsible for training and certifying firefighters.In February 2009, Jesse Stemple, the law enforcement liaison at the fire academy, reviewed copies of checks from the Chiefs of Police Association’s account and noticed discrepancies. Several checks had been written to Countrywide, a home mortgage lender.When Stemple asked Linsinbigler about the checks, he admitted using the funds for his personal use, according to prosecutors. An investigation discovered that the former bookkeeper had written a total of 79 checks to the mortgage company since 2001.Linsinbigler admitted to Assistant District Attorney Chris Parisi that he initially lied to county detectives about the extent of the theft. While skimming the accounts, he forged the signatures of Stemple, Upper Dublin Police Chief Terry Thompson, retired fire academy secretary Peggy Stansfield and deceased Whitemarsh Police Chief Richard Zolko.On the stand Wednesday, Linsinbigler testified he was remorseful for betraying the trust of fire and police officials.“I feel totally embarrassed,” he said. “I ruined (my) professional standards by doing what I did.”Parisi said the official used his position of authority to cover his criminal activity.“He used that to hide behind day after day,” he said. “It’s not about the money but the trust.”O’Neill laid out his reasoning for the sentence he would mete out. Forging of police and fire officials’ signatures, the judge said, was “particularly egregious.”“He stole money like a common thief,” O’Neill said.Linsinbigler, who was spared a state sentence, will be eligible for work release. He worked for the from fire academy in 1974 until 2009, except for three of those years. When he was fired he was earning an annual salary of $70,768.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Gastonia, North Carolina couple accused of embezzling from church

Authorities say a couple who worked at a Baptist church in North Carolina used their positions to steal more than $350,000 over a three-year period. Alan and Linda Roland of Gastonia face four charges, including embezzlement and conspiracy.Officials say Alan Roland worked as the treasurer at Way of the Cross Baptist Church in Mount Holly and that his wife was assistant treasurer.Authorities say the Rolands wrote 811 checks to themselves. The Rolands declined comment after a first appearance in court Thursday. They have been released on unsecured bond and have been ordered not to go on the church's property.Pastor Robert Meeks says he's hopeful they will find a way to reimburse the church.Mount Holly's Way of the Cross Baptist Church held its first Sunday service this weekend since the former members accused of embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars appeared in court."It's about like starting all over. God's given us a new beginning," Way of the Cross pastor, the Rev. Bobby Meeks, said.The church’s former treasurer and secretary, Alan and Linda Roland, appeared in a Gaston County courtroom last week. Over the years, detectives say they embezzled more than $360,000 from the church bank account."We found out we didn't have but $1,700, and it was a shock to all of us," said Meeks.Church leaders had very little to say about the case Sunday except that the focus was on the worship service, one in which Meeks talked about forgiveness.
"I talked to them and just said, ‘just try to love each other and bring unity back in the church,’" he said. Meeks says his congregation is already in the process of replenishing the money that was taken. He says the ladies of the church raised more than $2,000 through several yard sales and they plan to hold other fundraisers to restore the church account.

Hustisford, Wisconsin teacher gets jail sentence for embezzlement

A Hustisford teacher pleaded no contest to a reduced charged of embezzlement between $2,500 and $5,000 on Tuesday.Melissa Klein, 40, 410 Sandy Lane, Hustisford, had been charged with theft to a business setting.Klein was placed on probation for two years with the conditions that she serve 70 days in jail, pay restitution in an amount to yet be determined, pay court costs and that she does not serve as an officer of any group or organization or in any fiduciary capacity without permission from her probation officer.According to the criminal complaint, Klein was the treasurer of the Hustisford Education Association between Nov. 15, 2007 and Sept. 15, 2009. During that time, she took $6,860 that belonged to the association.Hustisford Education Association contacted the Wisconsin Education Association Council to perform an audit on the association's account at Hustisford State Bank. The audit revealed 17 separate fraudulent transactions committed by Klein during her tenure as treasurer of the association.Klein admitted on March 24 to members of WEAC that she committed the fraudulent transactions and resigned from the post.
Police interviewed Klein on April 1 and she admitted to taking the money and creating false documents to hide the transactions.

Hopes Mills, North Carolina woman charged with embezzling from church

A Hope Mills woman was charged Friday with embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from MacPherson Presbyterian Church. Darcy Lynn LacLaire, 38, of the 5900 block of Hunting Ridge Road in Hope Mills, was charged with six counts of embezzlement and one count of obtaining property by false pretense, according to court records.LacLaire worked as a secretary in the church office.Arrest warrants allege that LacLaire spent $210,121.88 of the church's money for personal use.She also used several credit cards in the church's name, located at 3525 Cliffdale Road, to make personal purchases totaling $121,035.89, according to court records.LacLaire was being held at the Cumberland County Detention Center on Friday night on a $250,000 secure bond.

Woman charged with embezzlement from church in Rogers City, Michigan

A 55-year-old Rogers City woman was arraigned in 89th District Court Thursday on embezzlement charges.

Kristie Kelley is charged with one count of embezzlement of $100,000 or more, while being an agent, servant or employee of St. Ignatius Church. The charge is a felony punishable by 20 year in prison or a fine of up to $50,000 or three times the amount embezzled, whichever is greater.The Rogers City Police Department began the investigation after receiving a complaint in June. A warrant for arrest was authorized by the Presque Isle County Prosecutor's Office on Wednesday.A press release from Rogers City Police Chief Matt Quaine stated the charge is merely an accusation and Kelley is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.Kelley currently is lodged in the Presque Isle County Jail on a $200,000 bond. Her preliminary exam is scheduled at 11 a.m. on Sept. 14.