Thursday, September 6, 2012

Former Tri County principal sentenced for embezzlement in Michigan


The former Tri County Middle School principal has been sentenced to do time on a work crew after pleading guilty to embezzling from his school.

William “Bill” Cichewicz was sentenced Thursday in 8th Judicial Circuit Court. He previously pleaded guilty to embezzlement from $200 to $1,000, a misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of one year.

He was sentenced to 25 days in jail — to be served on a work crew — six months probation and $1,705 in fines, costs and other fees.

Cichewicz was fired June 22 after he was charged with embezzling $1,350 from the school’s booster fund.

“As a school community, we are committed to excellence in all that we do,” said Tri County Area Schools Superintendent Al Cumings in a written statement. “This commitment means that we hold our students, staff and most of all our leadership accountable for behaviors and choices that do not reflect our community values.”

Cichewicz quickly made full restitution of the $1,350 he embezzled. He also wrote a letter of apology to the school district. In his letter, he detailed how he embezzled from the school over a period of months.

“I was tempted by the money that was available and I began to take some each time,” he said. “When confronted, I not only felt horrible about what I did, I also felt a sense of relief. Secrets such as these ate away at me as a person and as a leader. I felt guilt about what I was doing and my own violation of a moral code to which I normally adhere. I was trapped in the deceit that comes with breaking the trust of so many who looked up to me.

“When trust is broken, words are less important and actions over time are needed to restore a sense of credibility and respect,” he said. “It is my goal to engage with people in a way that demonstrates that lessons have been learned and behaviors have changed.”

In a follow up letter to parents, Cumings expressed his hope that the focus of the community would be “on the many positive accomplishments that occurred across our district this past year.”

In addition, the letter expressed appreciation to the many volunteers and booster club members for their fundraising assistance and hours of hard work that “keep student dreams and activities alive” in an era of shrinking budgets.

Steve Johnson has since been named principal at Tri County Middle School. Johnson is a former seventh grade English teacher at Tri County and has been assistant principal at Sparta Middle School for the past three years.

“Steve is excited to be back at Tri County,” Cumings said. “We are thrilled to have his leadership back at our school.”

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A pre-trial hearing has been postponed for Michael Greening, the former Royal Oak High School principal alleged of embezzling between $2,000 and $40,000 from Royal Oak's student activities fund in Michigan.


A pre-trial hearing has been postponed for Michael Greening, the former Royal Oak High School principal alleged of embezzling between $2,000 and $40,000 from Royal Oak's student activities fund.

Greening’s pre-trial hearing Tuesday morning in Oakland County Circuit Court in Pontiac was rescheduled to Oct. 9 to give defense attorney Paul Stablein time to review transcripts of the 44th District Court preliminary hearing.

“It’s common practice to ask for more time," said Oakland County Assistant Prosecutor Robert Novy.

Transcripts include two days of testimony, including Royal Oak Police Department Det. Keith Spencer summarizing his examination of Greening’s bank records and credit card statements, noting it appeared Greening had money troubles.

If convicted on two felony embezzlement charges, Greening faces up to five years in prison and/or a fine of $10,000 or three times the amount embezzled, whichever is greater, for each charge. The former principal, who came to court alone this morning, was released on $50,000 personal recognizance with conditions, including that he not leave the state.

Ex-Lee schools business manager Thweatt in court in Mississippi


Former Lee County schools business manager Randy Thweatt, accused of embezzlement, was due Friday to change his not-guilty plea. He did not.

Why wasn't clear after several dozen Thweatt friends and family waited more than an hour in a Lee County Justice Center courtroom.

But about 9:50 a.m., Circuit Judge Paul Funderburk told the audience that Thweatt's case was not to be heard yet.

"Perhaps it will be rescheduled for as early as Tuesday of next week," the judge said.

Funderburk said Thweatt and his attorneys continued to meet about his legal situation and were not ready to proceed.

Thweatt was arrested April 17 at the Lee County School District office by officials of the State Auditor's Office after he was indicted on two counts of embezzlement - regarding a 2006 Ford Ranger pickup truck and a district air-conditioning unit he was accused of installing in a Starkville mobile home he owns.

Friday, he wore a dark suit and tie as he entered the Lee County Justice center about 8:20 a.m. with his family. Among the audience observers were former Lee County Schools Superintendent Johnny Green and district personnel director Johnny Dye.

Earlier in the week, sources on both sides said they expected Thweatt to change his plea to guilty and be sentenced.

But each side differed on the level of punishment they speculated to be handed down - from house arrest to up to a year in prison.

Thweatt's attorney, Robert "Chip" Davis, did not respond to a Journal request to comment.

About 30 minutes after the hearing was set to begin, Davis escorted Thweatt and co-counsel Ed Priest to confer outside the courtroom. They weren't seen in the courtroom after Funderburk's announcement.

Records obtained by the Daily Journal soon after Thweatt's arrest show the pickup truck was signed over to him by Ralph Capps, the district's transportation director, who was placed on administrative leave with Thweatt on April 17. Capps told the Daily Journal he signed the document as the seller because he was told to do so by Thweatt.

No charges have been filed against anyone else, although auditor's investigators stated they "were looking" at a couple of others. Thweatt announced his retirement shortly after he was indicted.

Read more: - No new plea Ex Lee schools business manager Thweatt in court

Former Treasurer 'Refused to Turn Over Books' in California


Paul Nogaki, 55, is accused of embezzlement and grand theft during his two-year term as treasurer of the Vista Murrieta High School Golden Alliance Band Boosters.

Police revealed more details Friday about the arrest of a former booster club treasurer for the Vista Murrieta High School band.

Paul Nogaki, 55, was arrested Wednesday at his Murrieta home, accused of embezzlement and grand theft from the Golden Alliance Band Boosters.

School district officials and police, however, were not able to immediately provide the amount of money Nogaki is accused of taking.

"That could change, it depends on the audits. Once those are done we will have an exact amount," Murrieta police Sgt. Phil Gomez told Patch on Friday.
Nogaki served as the treasurer of the nonprofit organization for two years, through June 2012.

The booster club raises money to assist and supplement band activities such as travel, food and other related expenses not covered under the school district budget. It is run by parents and is a seperate entity from the high school band itself, district and police officials said.

Gomez said alleged accounting discrepancies surfaced after the newly-elected treasurer asked Nogaki for the bookkeeping records.

"He refused to turn them over," Gomez said. "So (the new treasurer) made his way to the bank and got some records."

Things did not match up, according to Gomez, so the bank statements were turned over to police.

Detectives served a warrant at Nogaki's residence on Buckwood Way, where Gomez said they recovered the books.
"There was enough information to warrant his arrest," the sergeant said.

A forensic audit—to be paid for by the booster club—will provide more insight into the depth of the alleged embezzlement, Gomez said.

Nogaki was booked on suspicion of embezzlement and grand theft of more than $400. He was free on $135,000 bail after spending one night behind bars, according to jail records.

Patch attempted to seek out Nogaki for comment on Friday at his residence, but no one answered the door.

Staunton Police arrest woman for school for embezzlement in Virginia


Less than a year after an embezzlement case happened at R. E. Lee High School, another embezzlement investigation occurred at a different Staunton school. One arrest was made.

The Staunton Police Department took a report for embezzlement of funds from the A.R. Ware Parents and Teachers organization.

As a result of the investigation, police arrested Donna M. Tinsley, 40, of Staunton on one count of felony embezzlement. She was released on $10,000 unsecured bond.

On Monday, Staunton City Schools promptly notified the Staunton City Police Department of possible irregularities with funds collected by the Ware Elementary School Parent and Teacher (PAT) organization for a fundraiser held last school year. The Staunton Police Department immediately followed up on the report.

The district staff has been in contact with the Police Department and will continue to provide requested information and assistance as the investigation ensues. The district staff also plans to work closely with the PAT at Ware Elementary School and other schools to help ensure that they implement additional safeguards to protect funds donated or paid to the organization.

"While PATs are separate organizations and not under the supervision of the school division, our parents and our community trust that all monies associated with our schools are handled appropriately," Linda Reviea, superintendent, said. "I am committed to doing all that we can to help the Ware Elementary School PAT through this difficult situation and assist its members as they move forward."

Nevada Woman Accused of Embezzling from Church


A 45-year-old woman accused of embezzling more than $40,000 from a Douglas County church has waived her preliminary hearing in East Fork Justice Court.

Tracey Taylor of Carson City is scheduled to appear Sept. 17 in Douglas County District Court.

She has been charged with a felony embezzlement count in the theft of $41,727 from the Corpus Christi Catholic Church in a check-cashing scheme.

Taylor is accused of writing multiple checks against the church bank account that went to herself, Walmart, two banks, JCPenney and others.

According to court documents, she has been suspended from her part-time job at the church. She had worked for the church since 2006.

Taylor has been a teacher at St. Teresa of Avila Catholic School in Carson City.

Ky. woman sentenced to 27 months in prison, ordered to pay $364K for embezzling from nuns in Kentucky.


A former bookkeeper for the Little Sisters of the Poor was sentenced Tuesday to 27 months in prison and ordered to pay $364,000 in restitution for embezzling money from the charity and using it to buy herself a new car, among other items.

U.S. District Judge Joseph H. McKinley told 54-year-old Mary "Kathy" Montfort that she was getting one of the lesser sentences available, in part because the judge wanted to make sure as much money as possible is repaid to the religious order.
"Stealing from Little Sisters of the Poor, it would have been better if you stole from General Motors, from a public relations standpoint," McKinley said. "But, theft is theft."

Montfort pleaded guilty in April to pilfering the money by forging the names of nuns in writing 43 checks on the organization's account between April 2010 and November 2011. She had faced 16 charges, including forging checks and money laundering.

In federal court in Louisville, Montfort was apologetic to two nuns who sat silently in the courtroom bedecked in all-white habits.

"I know I hurt you deeply," Montfort said. "I know it's been a hardship."

Montfort also wrote a letter to the nuns, a copy of which was placed in her court file, expressing grief and distress at having taken from the order and violating their trust. Montfort wrote that she "truly loves" the nuns and apologized for taking the money.

"I know what I have done is terribly wrong and that I have hurt a lot of people in the process," Montfort wrote. "That was never my intention."

Montfort said she took the funds after running into financial difficulties and was unable to get a loan. Montfort said she planned to pay it back. "One situation led to another and I had no real idea that it had reached the level that it finally came to," Montfort wrote.

Montfort wrote that she did used the money for "personal needs," but most of it went to help people who "really needed help," including family friends who were unable to pay for a funeral and insurance costs.

"The majority of the money was used for necessities for my family and others," Montfort wrote. "I know that I have made a terrible mistake and want to do what is right to correct things."

McKinley took note of the letter and Montfort's explanation of what happened to some of it, particularly that it was given away to others.

"That wasn't your money to give away," McKinley said. "And, you certainly weren't stealing from the rich to give to the poor."

Mike O'Connell, the Jefferson County Attorney and board member of the St. Joseph's Home for the Aged, which the sisters run, told McKinley the nuns were glad the case was coming to an end.

"It's been quite an ordeal," O'Connell said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Bryan Calhoun recommended 27 to 33 months in prison for Montfort, noting that the sisters rely on donations and that they'll be without a significant amount of money unless and until restitution is paid.

"The lasting effect in this case is more significant than it would be on a corporation," Calhoun said.

The charges arose in November when a nun with Little Sisters of the Poor, who operate St. Joseph's Home for the Aged in Louisville, called police to report suspicions that Montfort was embezzling from the organization. The nun, identified only as "M.C." in a criminal complaint, told federal officers that Fifth Third Bank called to verify a $14,742 check deposited in an account belonging to one of Montfort's relatives while Montfort was on vacation.

Investigators determined the check was fraudulent and the bank conducted a review and found 43 checks totaling $200,294 paid to a relative of Montfort's from April 7, 2010 through Nov. 10, 2011. Prosecutors say Montfort, who worked for the order from 2007 until her arrest, bought a 2010 Ford Fusion and a 2008 Mercury Grand Marquis with the money. Calhoun said both vehicles will be forfeited as part of the agreement.