Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Woman embezzled at least $20K from Northern Neck Tech Center in Virginia

A Warsaw woman is facing the possibility of jail time after a trip to the liquor store resulted in a massive investigation into misappropriation of public funds.

On April 18, Pamela Bragg pleaded guilty to one charge of felony embezzlement, after evidence was uncovered linking her to the theft of over $20,000. The charges stem from a series of schemes at the Northern Neck Technical Center, where Bragg was the financial director for nearly a decade.
According to Richmond County Commonwealth's Attorney Wayne Emery, the crimes came to light after a Northern Neck Bank employee became concerned about charges being made to the Tech Center's credit card.
"There were several recent purchases on the card that appeared unusual," Emery said in court. "One by reason of who the vendor was, the ABC store, and another by the amount of the purchase, over $800. Bragg would normally have handled the call but she was not in the office that day."
According to Emery, school principal Larry Long repeatedly asked Bragg to investigate the cause of the charges, but she took no action. Additionally, when asked, Bragg claimed to have no knowledge of anyone who could have made the purchases.
When it went unresolved the bank informed Long, for his protection, to report the fraud to the Sheriff's office. Investigators went to the ABC store, where video evidence was discovered showing Bragg making the purchases.
Aided by the Virginia State Police, the Richmond County Sheriff's Office decided to see if there might have been any additional fraud.
"What was found as a result of the investigation was stunning," Emery said. "Although sufficient evidence was discovered to lead the commonwealth to suspect that Bragg's embezzlement began as early as 2001, this office determined that proof rising to the standard beyond all reasonable doubt existed only for 2006 to 2008."
Emery added that conclusive evidence showed Bragg embezzled at least $20,550, with an additional $15,000 in "highly questionable activity."
The funds were siphoned off in various ways, including cashing over $1,200 in dividend checks, $1,974 of unauthorized charges to the Center's Visa card, $1,207 in gas charged to the Center's account and $7,284 in cash taken from the profits of vending machines and fund raising projects.
"On at least eight occasions she wrote checks, the largest being $2,563, on the Center's activity account [that were meant] to pay Visa," Emery said. "Those checks were endorsed by her and deposited directly into her personal account. No subsequent checks went to Visa nor were the funds represented by those checks returned to the Tech Center."
The intentional non-payment of the bills had an unintentional side effect. Her failure to pay the bills on time resulted in unnecessary payments in interest being charged on debts carried over," Emery said, adding that the total loss from the check scheme came to $6,621 with an additional $2, 228 in interest charges.
Originally charged with four felonies, Emery decided not to prosecute on charges of credit card theft, misuse of public funds and use of public assets in return for the guilty plea to embezzlement. Bragg will be sentenced on July 17. According to state code, felony embezzlement is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

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