Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Dade City pastor gets 30 months for embezzling funds

As a church pastor, Greg Sims showed love and kindness and understanding to everyone he met.

He reached out to troubled boys, taking them to church, attending their ballgames, helping them with homework.
He led Crossroads Church, a small congregation in Dade City that, by all accounts, loved him like family.
He also stole money - more than $800,000 systematically and surreptitiously embezzled from a union investment fund he worked for.
And for that, a federal judge on Tuesday sentenced Sims to 21/2 years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. He also must repay the roughly $813,000 in restitution.
"You are a good person, somebody who's lived a very good life," U.S. District Judge Virginia Hernandez Covington told him. "But you committed a very grave error."
Sims, 38, pleaded guilty late last year to theft or embezzlement of an employee benefit plan. According to court records, Sims began working for a company called Antares Staffing in late 2007. Antares was a subsidiary of Medical Mutual Services LLC, which managed health, welfare, pension and vacation funds for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 915, based in Tampa.
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, records say, an audit of International Brotherhood funds turned up 11 checks from the union's accounts to Crossroads Church on Clinton Avenue totaling $813,142.17.
To try to hide his embezzlement, Sims manipulated the bookkeeping to show payments to entities other than Crossroads Church, records say.
Robert Miles, an attorney for the union, said insurance covered the losses, but the union members still suffered. In order to break even on the budget from the year it lost money, the union had to increase premiums, co-pays and deductibles. Some members couldn't afford the rising costs.
"There are (members) there that don't have coverage," said Tom Withers, the union's benefits consultant.
The description of Sims' crime contrasts sharply with the emotional, deeply remorseful man who stood in court Tuesday with three dozen church parishioners behind him in support.
One woman described how Sims never judged her for her past but welcomed her unconditionally to Crossroads.
Another man said he admired how Sims admitted his wrongdoing to the church members rather than trying to hide it.
Sims' wife, Lisa, described his unyielding love for his own children, ages 11 and 8.
"He's just a man that made a big mistake," Lisa Sims said. "He did not practice what he preached."
Through it all, Sims held his face in his hands and wept.
He spoke, too, telling Covington that the theft began when he and his family were having trouble making payments on properties purchased when the economy was stronger. From there, he said, that single thought "opened up a chasm" in him.
"I strongly apologize for not having the moral fiber that I let on that I had," he said.
He thanked his parents, his in-laws and his "church family" who gave him love and support - "that which I did not deserve."
The judge said the case reminded her of her favorite Bible passage: "To whom much is given, much is expected."
Sims did not come from a broken home or drug-dealing parents. His advantages of family and opportunity, Covington said, should have held him to a higher standard.
"When people to whom much is given break the law, we just suffer the consequences," she said.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

NY pastor charged with embezzling $400K from bank; police say church funds not involved

Police say a pastor at an upstate New York church embezzled more than $400,000 from the credit union where he worked.

Jason LaPierre, pastor at River Church in Kingsbury is charged with writing himself hundreds of personal checks over four years while working at the Hudson River Community Credit Union in Corinth, 40 miles north of Albany.

LaPierre was a human resources and marketing executive at the bank. The thefts were discovered last year and he was fired in December.

Police believe at least $406,000 was taken.

LaPierre was arraigned Wednesday on charges of grand larceny and falsifying business records. Phones for LaPierre and the church were out of service Thursday.

A bank officer says the funds were insured against theft.

In California, Mt. San Antonio College's fire program director suspected of stealing $500,000 from students

Deputies said Wednesday they suspect the director of Mt. San Antonio College's Fire Technology Program used a fake bank account to steal $500,000 from students.

Jerry Dewayne Austin, 56, of Norco was arrested last week and has been charged with two felony counts of forgery and two felony counts of identity theft, said Detective Steven French of the sheriff's Walnut/Diamond Bar Station.
Austin pleaded not guilty to the four felony counts during an arraignment Monday. He is being held at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility in Los Angeles in lieu of $3 million bail.
Austin is scheduled to appear for a bail reduction hearing at the Pomona Superior Court at 8:30 a.m. today.
No one answered the phone
at a number listed for Austin in Norco, and there was no voicemail or message machine.

French said he suspects Austin used an illegal bank account to steal the students' money.
"What I believe is he was overcharging students for classes and then he would take the overcharge and basically steal that money," French said.
"He opened a fraudulent bank account using Mt. San Antonio College's tax ID number, which is identity theft," French said. "He utilized one of the Mt. SAC Fire Academy staff's names and forged his name as the individual who opened the account, which is the forgery."
The instructor could face further charges related to theft, French said.
French is investigating why Austin, the
school's fire technology director, opened the account in the first place.

Austin named himself the administrator of the unauthorized bank account, French said.
"He could make deposits and withdrawals and had all the statements sent to him, so nobody knew what was going on," he said.
It's unclear how long Austin had kept the account open, French said.

The Fire Technology program usually has about 1,000 students enrolled per semester. It features classes such as fire prevention technology, fire management and wildland fire control - all needed by those looking to become firefighters or advance their firefighting careers.
An unidentified person tipped the college off to the bank account sometime in the fall, said Clarence Brown, Mt. SAC's director of marketing and public affairs.
Austin was placed on paid administrative leave in September when internal investigations began, Brown said.
He has been teaching at Mt. SAC since 2003, officials said.
Austin worked at the Anaheim Fire Department for 29 years and is a retired division chief fire marshal, according to the school's website.
Austin began his college education as a fire technology student at Santa Ana Community College in 1972 and has earned several titles, including arson investigator, captain, safety officer and battalion commander, according to the website.
"He has properties out of the country, and he's considered a flight risk," French said. "If he leaves the country, you'd be chasing him forever."
Austin will return to court Feb. 3 to have a date set for a preliminary hearing, officials said.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Farmington Hills, Michigan Police Calls: Embezzlement from Church

A pastor and chairman of the board from First Church of the Nazarene on Haggerty Road told police on Jan. 7 that the church financial secretary had confessed to taking as much as $160,000 in church funds. According to the report, the 66-year-old Canton Township man, a trusted volunteer for 24 years, was confronted after an audit in November revealed the embezzlement. The man reportedly prepared a written confession and turned over some items that belonged to the church on Jan. 6, but then stopped cooperating with church officials. No criminal charges have been filed.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Former La Salle aide pleads guilty in embezzlement in Pennsylvania

A former La Salle University administrator pleaded guilty Tuesday to theft, forgery, and related offenses for embezzling $5 million from the school.

Stephen Greb, 58, of Blue Bell, oversaw the university's food services from 1984, when he was hired, until he was fired in June after his scheme was uncovered by La Salle.
Greb created a fictitious food vendor called Sunshine Foods and then authorized payments to that vendor as far back as 1990, officials said.
The university conducted an internal investigation with the help of a forensic accountant after La Salle officials questioned a $40,000 payment to Sunshine. Greb acted alone, they determined.
Greb, who is free on bail, will be sentenced Feb. 22 before Common Pleas Court Judge Lillian H. Ransom. Although he faces a maximum 28 years in prison, he likely will receive far less time because he pleaded guilty.
He also faces a $60,000 fine. He has paid a substantial amount in restitution to the university, officials said.
"We are pleased that the case is advancing and are confident that justice will be served," said Jon Caroulis, director of media relations for La Salle.

Records Suggest Former Downers Grove, Illinois Panther Treasurer had Financial Woes

By the time authorities closed in on Theresa Carlquist in August 2010, the former Panther Junior Football treasurer's financial pressures had been mounting for some time.

She had, by her own posts on Facebook, not worked for most of the previous year. The bank started foreclosure actions for the second time in a decade on the family home. Financial judgments and a federal tax lien left her and her husband owing at least $193,000 to creditors and the IRS.

Then, prosecutors charged her with stealing approximately $112,000 from the Panthers, which she had served as a volunteer.

Court documents in Carlquist's criminal and foreclosure cases, as well as life details publicized by Carlquist, paint a timeline of financial struggle for the Carlquists.

Although neither police nor prosecutors have publicly linked money trouble to the criminal allegations, it was considered during the nine-month probe resulting in Carlquist's arrest.

"Her finances were investigated," Downers Grove Police Sgt. David Bormann said, noting the practice is not uncommon during an investigation of a financial crime.

Bormann could not speak to specifics of what police looked for or found during their investigation. Carlquist remains free on $50,000 bond, charged with multiple counts of felony theft and continuing financial crimes. She returns to court next month at the DuPage County Courthouse in Wheaton.

It's unclear how long Carlquist served as treasurer for the Panthers program, but she held the position at least as far back as February 2008, according to prosecutors. That's when they allege she began to pilfer football funds in an embezzlement scheme which eventually had Carlquist cutting at least five checks to herself in 2008, including $16,500 worth in September alone.

Her tenure with Panthers football overlaps with Carlquist owning the now-defunct FYI Dental Lab in Des Plaines. The business, mentioned in Carlquist's employment history on Facebook, operated between 2005 and July 2009.

The employment history then shows an 11-month gap before starting work as a photographer for a Naperville-based company in June 2010, according to Carlquist's Facebook page.

A message left for Carlquist at the business was not returned.

Around the same time Carlquist started her new job, the bank filed foreclosure paperwork on the family's 2,400-square-foot home on Plymouth Road. Records indicate the Carlquists failed to make mortgage payments since November 2009. The Carlquists were served notice in September 2010.

It was a familiar claim. In 2002, the Carlquists fell nearly $15,000 behind on the mortgage and, after failing to show up in court for three months, were hit with a default judgment giving the bank the go-ahead to foreclose. However, the judgment was vacated a month later, records show, but it's unclear how the family kept their home.

They secured a new, adjustable-rate mortgage for $338,400 in 2004, which is the focus of the ongoing foreclosure case, and another mortgage for $37,600 in 2005, records show.

Despite their mortgage payment issues, the couple has paid their property taxes in full and on time since 2007, county tax records show.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Witnesses sought in Visalia, California church embezzlement

Visalia police are seeking help from the public in the case of a church accounting manager who is accused of embezzling more than $2 million from Visalia First Assembly of God church.

Since arresting Sandra Arreola, 51, in mid-December, Visalia police have been contacted by at least two people who said they had financial dealings with Arreola, Sgt. Gary Williams said.
One person said Arreola paid cash to buy some property, Williams said. Both witnesses said they were unaware that Arreola was connected with the church until they learned in news reports that she had been arrested, he said.
Anyone with additional information about Arreola related to the case is asked to call detective Kevin Kroeze at (559) 713-4574.
Arreola, who turned herself in on Dec. 16, is being held on $1 million bail.

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Sunday, January 9, 2011

RIVERVIEW, Michigan: Police, school officials not talking about embezzlement

Office and school officials aren’t saying much about an alleged embezzlement involving a school club.

What’s known is that a member of the Riverview Community High School Football Booster Club is under suspicion of stealing an undisclosed amount of money.
School Supt. Dennis Desmarais said no other club or school organization is under scrutiny.
“We are dealing with an embezzlement case with the football boosters,” he said. “It’s hard to say how much. That’s being taken to the (Wayne County) Prosecutor’s Office right now. They have to look at it.”
Deputy Police Chief Clifford Rosebohm said police submitted a warrant request to the prosecutor’s office Tuesday.
“(Information) can’t be disclosed right now because it is an active investigation,” he said. “It’s at the prosecutor’s office, and they will provide a thorough investigation of what the Police Department has put forward.”
Although Rosebohm would not give a dollar amount, he said the alleged embezzlement took place during the 2010 football season.
The most recent case of embezzlement in the school district that was taken to police, and eventually to the court system, involved former high school Assistant Principal Lisa Zoltowski, who resigned in July 2009 after the district discovered missing funds.
Zoltowski was charged with one count of embezzlement by an agent of an amount more than $1,000 but less than $20,000.
According to district records, slightly more than $7,000 was taken during the 2005-06 and 2006-07 school years from athletic pass and student parking pass accounts.
Zoltowski was accepted into the court’s diversion program for first-time, nonviolent offenders, which allowed her to avoid jail time, but required full restitution, community service and other conditions.
Some school district insiders have told The News-Herald Newspapers that the incident involving the Football Booster Club is not the only one of its kind in recent years.
Desmarais said, however, that there is no truth to rumors of other incidents during his four years as superintendent.
“We have had some situations with minor amounts of (missing) money that we have dealt with, but nothing comparable to Zoltowski or comparable to this,” he said.
Rosebohm said the officer who initially looked into the allegation turned it over to the detective bureau after determining it required further investigation.
The police investigation took about a month, and Rosebohm said he expects the prosecutor’s office to take about the same amount of time.
Prosecutor’s office spokeswoman Maria Miller would confirm only that a warrant request regarding the embezzlement case is being reviewed.
She said it mostly likely would take about three weeks for a decision.
Rosebohm and Desmarais emphasized that only one person is under suspicion, so this is not being viewed as a larger-scale problem within the Football Booster Club.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

No jail time for school official who embezzled taxpayer money in Colorado

Steve Atwood was an Adams 12 Five Star Schools success story: the local boy, a star athlete who returned to his hometown as a teacher and athletic director. But he was also robbing the school district blind.

The exact amount Atwood stole isn't known and probably never will be known. The best estimate is at least $190,000, money stolen from student funds, gate receipts from athletic events and taxpayer money.
On Thursday, Atwood stood in a courtroom with two other men who grew up in the Thornton area and went through the school system: Adams 12 superintendent Chris Gdowski and Adams County District Court Judge Chris Melonakis.
"It's terribly sad, Mr. Atwood, to see someone who has come as far as you have to disgrace yourself," Melonakis said. "It's a terrible failure on your part."
Prosecutors requested jail time for the felony embezzlement charge Atwood pled guilty to earlier this year.
Melonakis instead chose seven years of probation and 90 days of work release for Atwood, but not until after he castigated him for failing to be a good role model.
Melonakis said he would set aside his own personal feelings of disappointment to reach the sentence, yet he pointed to himself and Superintendent Gdowski as products of the school district living up to their responsibility to be role models.
"We owe it to them to do something more than what you've done in this case," Melonakis told Atwood.
"Many of us have overcome really tough circumstances and now see ourselves as important role models in the district and Steve's compromised that," Gdowski said.
Atwood has paid $20,000 restitution and may be ordered to pay more after an upcoming restitution hearing.
"I can't express how sorry I am for the selfish behavior I exhibited in the past," Atwood told the court.
Leaving court, Atwood and his attorney declined to comment further.
Gdowski said Atwood's actions had done "substantial damage" to the community's trust in Adams 12, a breach he said will take "a very, very long time to redeem and rebuild."
The superintendent outlined what that means in practical terms.
"You'll hear from comments from kids as they go door to door fundraising, saying, hey can you please buy some cookies or some pretzels because our athletic director stole a bunch of money from the district. We get e-mails and phone calls from people saying we dont know if we want to do a fundraiser, do we really trust that the money is going to go to the kids? Those kind of comments come in fairly often," Gdowski said.
"We're going to work very hard to rebuild the public trust in our district," Gdoswki said.
Atwood, 40, spent 18 years working for his alma mater, including five years as athletic director.
In that position, prosecutors said, Atwood enriched himself by pocketing revenues from ticket sales and concessions.
The thefts were discovered when Adams 12 brought on an internal auditor. Atwood resigned in 2009 when confronted about the missing money.
The school's internal audit found suspiciously low attendance numbers and subsequently, less revenue from sporting events. The audit only examined financial figures from the 2008-2009 school year.
That year, Atwood reported 481 paid admissions for a Legacy High School football game against Poudre High School, according to court documents. That raised red flags because a similar game drew 2,117 paid admissions.
Court documents outlined a string of brazen theft techniques by Atwood, including removing the large bills from concession stand cash registers claiming it was being done for security purposes.
Prosecutors were told by Atwood's ex-wife that she once found $10,000 of school money in a bag stuffed between a cabinet and a wall. She invited investigators to visit Atwood's home, claiming they would find a flat-screen TV that should have been installed at the Adams 12 sports stadium.
As a condition of his plea deal, Atwood can never again work for a public school.

Former school secretary faces embezzlement charges in Stevens Point, Wisconsin

A former secretary has been accused of embezzling more than $15,000 from a Stevens Point elementary school's coffers between March 2008 and Jan. 31, 2010. She's also suspected of taking more than $5,000 from a high school dance team between February 2006 and March 2007.

Sandy L. Schlicher, 47, of Plover, has been charged with two counts of felony theft. She is scheduled to make an initial appearance Jan. 24 in Portage County Circuit Court.

According to a criminal complaint filed Dec. 28, the first count stems from missing money from Washington Elementary School. School officials contacted Stevens Point police about possible embezzlement at the elementary school Feb. 5 after several instances in which money entrusted to Schlicher for deposit either had never been deposited in the school's bank account or had been deposited in different amounts or forms.

The complaint states officials contacted police after they learned that $600 raised for Haitian refugees during a school bake sale had not been deposited at the bank. When officials asked Schlicher if she had made the deposit she could not provide a bank receipt, the complaint states.

After analyzing school financial records from 2008 to 2010, school personnel reportedly found several other instances in which deposit vouchers had been filed with Schlicher in the office but had not been made at the bank, the complaint states. There also were late deposits, and deposits that had been changed from cash to checks. A total cash shortage of more than $15,750 eventually was found.

When officers searched Schlicher's residence Feb. 16, they reportedly found two deposit slips for Portage County Bank, a pile of shredded paper similar to the kind used by the school for deposit vouchers, numerous checks for Washington School and several deposit slips. A bag containing 43 personal checks and five deposit slips also was found, along with an October 2009 deposit voucher from the school consisting of $103.20 in cash and coins.

The second count of the complaint charges that Schlicher embezzled more than $5,000 from the Stevens Point Area Senior High Pom and Dance team between February 2006 and March 2007, when she was the organization's treasurer.

Contacted about the embezzlement by the current treasurer of the SPASH Pom and Dance team in October of this year, police allegedly found that Schlicher had misappropriated funds from a formal dress sale fundraiser, and never paid bills for embroidery work or bus tickets.

Ex-soccer club official pleads guilty in Livonia, Michigan

The former co-treasurer of the Livonia City Soccer Club pled guilty Friday in Wayne County Circuit Court to one count of embezzlement over $20,000.

Brian Patrick Molloy of Farmington also paid $87,000 restitution to the court on Friday as part of the sentence agreement. That agreement included that $87,000, due by the sentencing date of Feb. 9, two years probation, and all other fines, conditions, costs and terms imposed by Circuit Judge James Chylinski at the sentencing.
Molloy, 40, was arraigned Oct. 4 on a charge he embezzled more than $100,000 from the soccer club,
Prosecutors confirmed the sentencing agreement was reached, but did not issue any statement or comment Friday.
Robert Morad, Molloy’s attorney, was reached Friday by telephone, but didn’t want to comment on the case until the sentencing.
Livonia police could not be reached for comment Friday.
The embezzlement was discovered when club officials found suspicious activity involving bank accounts, discovered as part of a routine examination of club bank statements.
Club officers contacted bank authorities, who in turn alerted their fraud prevention unit. At that time, club officials said they worked closely with police and fraud investigators and added safeguards to prevent “this type of regrettable incident from ever happening again.”
On Friday, LCSC spokesman Joe Bauman issued the following statement:
“The Livonia City Soccer Club is very pleased and relieved to have this most unfortunate chapter in our history behind us. We are very thankful to our attorney, Paul Bernier of the Flood Lanctot Connor & Stablein law firm, Independent Bank, the Livonia Police Department and the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office in bringing this matter to a successful conclusion.
“All along, our top priority has been to get the funds that were wrongfully taken from our players and their families returned to the club, and today’s court action has accomplished that goal. We support the terms of the agreement

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Former Bloomingdale, Georgia pastor indicted for stealing from church

A federal grand jury Tuesday indicted the former pastor of New Harvest International Ministries Church in Bloomingdale for embezzling money from his own church.

The indictment alleges Kenneth Terrell, 46, stole at least $200,000 of the church’s money for his own use over a span of four years, said James D. Durham, first assistant U.S. attorney.
Terrell was charged with seven counts of wire fraud. The former pastor faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
Durham said the indictment arose after a joint investigation by United States Secret Service Agent William Griffin and Savannah-Chatham Police Detective Raymond Woodberry.
“This defendant is alleged to have used his position as pastor to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars intended for his very own church,” said Edward J. Tarver, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia.
“The indictment alleges that Terrell systematically took money over at least a four-year period and used it to support a lavish lifestyle.”

Sunday, January 2, 2011

School employee under investigation for embezzlement in Steelville, Missouri

Long-time Steelville School District board secretary and bookkeeper Crystal Bouse is reportedly being investigated for an alleged embezzlement of school funds.

Although officials with the district would not confirm that Bouse is the subject of the investigation, Superintendent Nathan Holder did say a district employee has been placed on unpaid leave pending the results of an investigation being conducted by the Missouri State Highway Patrol. Numerous sources with close ties to the district have said that Bouse is that employee.

A statement from the superintendent’s office released Monday reported that on Tuesday, Dec. 21, the district was informed by the Highway Patrol of a possible criminal situation wherein a district employee was allegedly stealing school funds.

“The employee was immediately removed from the district and access to district technology was terminated,” Holder reported in a prepared statement. “The district is cooperating with law enforcement to investigate the allegations and to ensure that, if any district funds were taken, all such funds are returned.”

Holder added that the district maintains a bond on all of its employees. The district’s bonding company has been notified and Holder was assured the district will not suffer a loss of funds.

“As the investigation proceeds, we will notify our patrons and media,” Holder said.

Holder added that the district is strongly considering a forensic audit that would provide much more detail into its financial practices. Such an audit would entail a thorough investigation, providing a broader depth of information about the district’s policies and procedures related to school funds.

Charges have yet to be filed as a result of the investigation, which remains ongoing. As of Tuesday, Bouse was still listed on the school’s website as the board secretary and district bookkeeper.