Thursday, December 20, 2012

Former Pastor on Trial for Embezzlement of Church in Virginia


The trial of former pastor Wilbert Brassfield began Thursday in Fluvanna County.

Brassfield is charged with five counts of embezzlement for allegedly taking more than $10,000 from Praise Christian Fellowship's account funds, which he had sole access to.

Prosecutors claim that Brassfield illegally took the money so that he could pay off his home mortgage. Defense attorneys countered that Brassfield was legally entitled to use the money as he saw fit.

The jury in the trial has already begun deliberations.

Karan Brassfield had no idea her now-estranged husband was embezzling funds from the Fluvanna church they started out of their home. Wilbert Davis Brassfield said that as pastor, he had the authority to write checks to any church member in need – including himself.

An all-white jury of eight women and four men convicted Wilbert Brassfield, 48, Thursday night of three counts of felony embezzlement in Fluvanna County Circuit Court. He was found not guilty of two additional embezzlement charges.

Brassfield, who once served as pastor of Courts of Praise Christian Fellowship, testified that bookkeeping is “not my thing.”

“I didn’t do good,” he said. “I didn’t keep good books.”

He wrote three checks from the church’s bank account to cover his own household expenses, including payments on his delinquent mortgage, Fluvanna County Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Francis C. Terwilliger explained in his opening statement.

Without the knowledge of other members or church officials, Brassfield also transferred money from the church’s bank account to his personal bank account, which he opened without his wife’s knowledge in 2006.

As a pastor, Brassfield had the authority to write checks from the church’s account to those in need, he said, but admitted that he never gave more than $1,000 at one time to any other member.

Brassfield said that he donated more than $20,000 to the church during his time as pastor.

At a regular church meeting in 2009, he told church leaders he had something to tell them, according to testimony.

“He proceeded to say ‘I took money from the church,’” Karan Brassfield said. She testified that she had no idea her husband was mishandling funds.

At one point, the church had as many as 35 members, she testified. Many were family members, she added.

According to testimony, the church, which was renting a space, hoped to buy a building or land on which to build a new church.

“We actually went out and looked at other buildings to purchase,” Karan Brassfield said. Wilbert Brassfield accompanied church leaders on the ventures after he had embezzled funds, she added. He never mentioned the church’s dire finances.

Just two months after Wilbert Brassfield’s confession, he and his wife separated. Allegations started to “heat up” after the demise of the Brassfield’s marriage, defense attorney James Cooke said.

Brassfield, a 10-year veteran of the Charlottesville police force, lost his job as a school resource officer because of the charges against him. Courts of Praise Christian Fellowship closed in 2010.

The jury had not reached a decision as to Brassfield’s recommended sentence by press time.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Audit: Lusher employee embezzled $25,000 from school in New Orleans

An employee in the accounting department at Lusher Charter School embezzled $25,000 last school year by forging five checks she wrote to herself from the school’s bank account, according to an audit report obtained by The Lens.
The audit report doesn’t identify the “high ranking employee in the Business Office,” who was ultimately fired. Nor did Lusher CEO Kathy Riedlinger, though she did say the woman had worked at the school for three years.
She said the theft was reported to the New Orleans Police Department.
The audit says, “The total amount stolen is believed to be $25,000, and all was recovered from the dismissed employee.” Auditors recommended that the school keep a closer eye on its blank checks, and in January, the school did develop procedures to do so.
Riedlinger said the school “moved the checks into our safe. And the only people that have access to that are the CFO and me, the CEO.”
She credited the school’s procedures for detecting the theft. CFO Lynden Swayze “kept careful count of the checks” and “realized that several were missing.”
An employee in the accounting department at Lusher Charter School embezzled $25,000 last school year by forging five checks she wrote to herself from the school’s bank account, according to an audit report obtained by The Lens.
The audit report doesn’t identify the “high ranking employee in the Business Office,” who was ultimately fired. Nor did Lusher CEO Kathy Riedlinger, though she did say the woman had worked at the school for three years.
She said the theft was reported to the New Orleans Police Department.
The audit says, “The total amount stolen is believed to be $25,000, and all was recovered from the dismissed employee.” Auditors recommended that the school keep a closer eye on its blank checks, and in January, the school did develop procedures to do so.
Riedlinger said the school “moved the checks into our safe. And the only people that have access to that are the CFO and me, the CEO.”
She credited the school’s procedures for detecting the theft. CFO Lynden Swayze “kept careful count of the checks” and “realized that several were missing.”
It took a few months for the school to get the money back, Riedlinger said.
An employee in the accounting department at Lusher Charter School embezzled $25,000 last school year by forging five checks she wrote to herself from the school’s bank account, according to an audit report obtained by The Lens.
The audit report doesn’t identify the “high ranking employee in the Business Office,” who was ultimately fired. Nor did Lusher CEO Kathy Riedlinger, though she did say the woman had worked at the school for three years.
She said the theft was reported to the New Orleans Police Department.
The audit says, “The total amount stolen is believed to be $25,000, and all was recovered from the dismissed employee.” Auditors recommended that the school keep a closer eye on its blank checks, and in January, the school did develop procedures to do so.
Riedlinger said the school “moved the checks into our safe. And the only people that have access to that are the CFO and me, the CEO.”
She credited the school’s procedures for detecting the theft. CFO Lynden Swayze “kept careful count of the checks” and “realized that several were missing.”
It took a few months for the school to get the money back, Riedlinger said.

 An employee in the accounting department at Lusher Charter School embezzled $25,000 last school year by forging five checks she wrote to herself from the school’s bank account, according to an audit report obtained by The Lens.

The audit report doesn’t identify the “high ranking employee in the Business Office,” who was ultimately fired. Nor did Lusher CEO Kathy Riedlinger, though she did say the woman had worked at the school for three years.

She said the theft was reported to the New Orleans Police Department.

The audit says, “The total amount stolen is believed to be $25,000, and all was recovered from the dismissed employee.” Auditors recommended that the school keep a closer eye on its blank checks, and in January, the school did develop procedures to do so.

Riedlinger said the school “moved the checks into our safe. And the only people that have access to that are the CFO and me, the CEO.”

She credited the school’s procedures for detecting the theft. CFO Lynden Swayze “kept careful count of the checks” and “realized that several were missing.”

It took a few months for the school to get the money back, Riedlinger said.

This isn’t the first time a business employee has been accused of stealing from a charter school. In 2010, Kelly Thompson was sentenced to five years in prison for stealing $660,000 while business manager at Langston Hughes Academy.

Lusher’s auditors also cited the school for failing to record some financial transactions and failing to track its federal and state grant expenses. Charters must submit paperwork to the school board to be reimbursed for federal grants.

The school didn’t track $407,000 in federal grant expenses, according to the report, and it didn’t submit reimbursement requests to the parish school board for those costs. In the course of the audit, the school tracked and submitted those requests.

The school also had $243,000 recorded in grant reimbursements the previous school year, but that money actually wasn’t received. Auditors adjusted the school’s financial records to account for the discrepancy.

The school also missed its deadline to submit the audit to the Orleans Parish School Board. The report is dated Friday; it was due Sept. 30.

The report says the delay was caused by the amount of work it took to reconcile financial records.

A New Orleans police report on embezzlement at Lusher Charter School provides more details regarding the theft of $25,000 last school year, including the name of the employee involved.
Accounting office employee Lauren Hightower, 30, forged the signature of Lusher Chief Executive Officer Kathy Riedlinger and others on six checks, according to the report released Friday to The Lens.

The theft at Lusher came to light through an audit report made public last week that said only that a “high ranking employee in the business office” embezzled the money.

Lusher officials tightened internal controls over blank checks in response to the theft.

Hightower has not been charged with a crime, and the investigation is ongoing, New Orleans Police spokesman Officer Garry Flot said.

Reached by phone, Hightower declined to comment.

Riedlinger said Friday that the school reported the theft to the police, the district attorney and the legislative auditor, asking each to “pursue this to the fullest.”

The forged checks were discovered by school Chief Financial Officer Lynden Swayze.

According to the police report:

Swayze told police that Hightower initially told her she’d taken 11 checks and cashed one $5,000 check. Hightower then told Swayze that she shredded the 10 checks that were left.

Swayze requested copies of the school’s checks from Whitney Bank and found that Hightower had actually written out five checks to herself for $5,000 each, and an $800 check made payable to cash.

The checks showed forged signatures in the name of Riedlinger, Swayze, middle school Principal Brenda Bourne and high school Principal Wiley Ates, according to Swayze’s rendering of the incident.

Police officers confiscated copies of the forged checks for evidence.
ook a few months for the school to get the money back, Riedlinger said.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

DA files charges in church embezzlement Police: $109,454 missing from St. John’s

Oklahoma County prosecutors have filed formal felony charges against a former business manager accused of embezzling $109,454 from an Edmond church.

On Monday, Jenny Monroe, spokeswoman for the Edmond Police Department said the Oklahoma County District Attorney’s office filed felony charges against Bill Dwight Coyle, 62, of Edmond. Future court dates were not yet posted on the Oklahoma State Courts Network online database.

Monroe said on Friday Edmond detectives presented information for eight felony counts to the DA’s office in regards to a complaint from St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, 924 S. Littler Ave. Efforts to gain comment from church staff Monday evening were not successful.

According to the incident report, filed by Edmond Police Officer Jonathan Cramer in July, Coyle was a deacon and administrator at the church. It stated he was no longer employed by the church at that time.

Identification information of the reporting party and five witnesses was redacted in the police report. It lists incident property as $109,454 in cash and a church-owned 256 MG USB flash drive.

Monroe said the Police Department worked jointly with the white collar crimes division of the DA’s office and filed paperwork seeking the felony charges after an extensive five-month investigation. The department pursued eight counts of Computer Crimes Act violations against Coyle, she said.

When reached by phone, Coyle was given an opportunity to state his side of the story.

“I have no comment,” he told The Edmond Sun on Monday evening.

Coyle confirmed he has retained an Oklahoma City attorney. Contact information for the attorney was not available before press time.

In the report Cramer stated he was told an audit, ordered after concerns arose regarding missing money, found that $109,454 was missing. Cramer stated that he was told the defendant was the church’s business manager at the time of the alleged embezzlement.

According to the reporting party the defendant agreed to make restitution to the church for an unspecified amount before the audit was completed, Cramer stated. The audit revealed an amount of missing funds considerably more than that which was originally known to be missing, the report stated.

Monroe deferred further inquiries about the case to the DA’s office, which was closed for the day when the information was received. The developments conclude the Police Department’s investigation, Monroe said.Google Nexus 7 32GB Tablet NEXUS7ASUS- (Google Affiliate Ad)LG 47 " Black 1080p LED 120Hz HDTV - 47LS4600 (Google Affiliate Ad)Apple Lightning To 30-Pin Adapter - MD823ZMA (Google Affiliate Ad)Microsoft Xbox 360 Call Of Duty: Black Ops II - XB3ACT84385 (Google Affiliate Ad)Canon EOS Rebel T3i Digital SLR Camera With 18-55mm IS II Kit - REBEL T3i (Google Affiliate Ad)Nutribullet Superfood Nutrition Extractor (Google Affiliate Ad)Microsoft Halo 4 Standard Edition Xbox 360 HND-00040 (Google Affiliate Ad)Microsoft Halo 4 Standard Edition Xbox 360 HND-00040 (Google Affiliate Ad)Microsoft Xbox 360 Halo 4 - XB3MICHND040 (Google Affiliate Ad)Microsoft Xbox 360 Halo 4 - XB3MICHND040 (Google Affiliate Ad)

Lafayette School's ex-chief charged in embezzlement in Virginia

The former head of the Lafayette School & Treatment Center in Charlottesville is accused of stealing $27,000 from the school, the Albemarle County Police Department announced Monday.
Mary P. Anderson, 40, is charged with embezzlement.

Anderson is listed as living in Charlottesville, but court papers indicate she was a Fishersville resident when authorities executed a search warrant at her Abbey Court home in September.

According to the search warrant, Anderson, while director of the school, is suspected of opening an unauthorized credit card account through the school in January 2008, and listed her address as Kents Store, where she used to live. The alleged thefts took place during a three-year period.

The credit card was obtained through the Internet, according to court records.

Anderson is accused of buying nearly $1,000 in new shoes, $1,300 in clothing and more than $6,000 in scrapbooking materials, court records show.

Authorities seized bank records from Anderson’s Fishersville home, along with scrapbooking materials, phone records, five pairs of shoes and school records.

The Lafayette School & Treatment Center serves children and adolescents with emotional and behavioral problems in a therapeutic day school environment, according to the school’s website. It opened in 1999.

The alleged financial discrepancies were discovered during an audit in January when the school’s new director, Barrett Stump, “found several questionable purchases” made by Anderson, the search warrant states.

An Albemarle grand jury indicted Anderson on Dec. 7. A hearing date will be set on Thursday.

Anderson is free on a personal recognizance

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Ocean Springs School District employee indicted in $9K embezzlement.

 A Jackson County grand jury has indicted a former employee of the Ocean Springs School District on four charges of embezzlement. Linda Smeby is accused of embezzling $9,113.85 while she was employed at the School District's Keys Technology Center. In one count, she's accused between Aug. 1, 2009, and May 31, 2010, of stealing $1,252 she received from child care accounts.In another charge, she's accused between Aug. 1, 2009, and May 31, 2010, of embezzling $2,666.40 she received in the form of teacher receipts. Between Aug. 1, 2010, and Feb. 28, 2011, Smeby is accused of stealing $2,131.50 she received in the form of teacher receipts. Another charge accuses her of stealing $3,063.95 she received from Hungry Hounds Cafe, also at the school district's technology center

Ex-school principal asks for delay in embezzlement trial in Mississippi

Former Olive Branch Middle School principal Mike McCoy, who was indicted on conspiracy and embezzlement charges, has requested that his Jan. 14 trial be postponed because his attorney has a scheduling conflict.
McCoy’s attorney, Kevin Horan, filed the motion for a continuance Dec 6.
In the motion, Horan, who is a first-term democratic state representative from Grenada, says that he must be in Jackson for a legislative session, and will be unavailable on the day of McCoy’s trial.
No new trial date has been set for the 43-year-old McCoy. He was indicted in October along with two Olive Branch Middle School staff members. The three are accused of taking more than $10,000 from various school accounts.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Columbus, Wisconsin Secretary Accused Of Stealing From School

Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen announced today that Susan Droessler, of Columbus, Wisconsin, has been charged with one count of felony theft. An initial appearance has been scheduled for December 19, 2012, in Columbia County Circuit Court.
According to the Criminal Complaint, Droessler worked for a period of time as a secretary and bookkeeper for St. Jerome Parish and School in Columbus. In January of 2010, a trustee on the parish finance council discovered that for a period of time dating back to at least the beginning of 2007, large sums of money had been misappropriated from the church and school. A subsequent investigation by the Columbus Police Department revealed that the defendant, who was able to write checks from the school and parish accounts, used parish and school funds to pay for various personal and family expenses, such as items totaling more than $5,000 at Wal-Mart, more than $17,000 for various credit card accounts in the defendant’s name, and numerous other expenses for items and bills.

It is also alleged that the defendant enrolled herself in full-time health benefits through the parish, to which she was not entitled. It is believed that the total amount of premiums paid by the parish from August 2004 through August 2010 for the defendant’s family coverage, dental plan, and vision insurance was in excess of $88,000. Parish officials confirmed that the defendant was not entitled to receive these benefits, nor was she entitled to use any of the school funds for personal use.

The charge of felony theft in this case is a class G felony, punishable by a fine of not more than $25,000 or imprisonment for not more than 10 years, or both.

A criminal complaint is a document accusing a person of a violation of criminal law. A defendant enjoys a presumption of innocence. The prosecution must prove its allegations at trial beyond a reasonable doubt.

Assistant Attorney General David W. Maas is representing the State. This case was investigated by the Columbus Police Department.

Ex-school secretary sentenced to one year for embezzlement in Hawaii

Former Fern Elementary School secretary Williamina Muranaka is going to jail for a year for stealing nearly $15,000 from the Kalihi school over a 2 1/2-year period.
Circuit Judge Richard Perkins sentenced Muranaka, 44, to five years of probation this morning and imposed the jail term as a condition of probation.
Muranaka will begin serving her jail term after the holidays.
The state had asked Perkins to sentence Muranaka to 10 years in prison because she failed to pay back the money she stole by today’s sentencing.
Muranaka pleaded guilty in May to 13 counts of theft and one for bribery.
The bribery charge is for accepting more than $2,000 worth of gift cards from the vendor who supplied the school with copier supplies for ordering printer/toner cartridges at exorbitant prices.
Muranaka used more than half of the money she stole to pay her rent in state public housing

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A long-serving member of the Gates County Board of Education stands charged with embezzlement in Virginia

A long-serving member of the Gates County Board of Education stands charged with embezzlement, but has gone on the record to say he is wrongly accused.
Leslie Spencer Byrum, 54, of Acorn Hill Road, Hobbsville, was arrested last month on two felony counts of exploitation of the elderly. He posted a $3,000 unsecured bond and has a scheduled court date of Jan. 28.

According to Gates County Sheriff Ed Webb, Byrum, an accountant by trade, served an elderly female of the county who is currently residing in a Chowan County rest home.

“Mr. Byrum was in charge of her financial affairs and allegedly removed in excess of $10,000 from her account,” Webb said.

However, Byrum maintains his innocence.

“The true facts will come out in this,” he said. “My wife and I cared for this lady and her husband for over 12 years. To be honest, if I wanted to take something from her, I could have done it long time ago, but I didn’t then and I didn’t now.”

Byrum said he has hired an attorney.

“We feel we have a strong case; we feel confident that the court will rule in my favor,” he stated.

Webb said due to Byrum’s position in the community as an elected official, he chose to have the North Carolina SBI handle the investigation.

“The allegations against Mr. Byrum were reported to us in June or July of this year,” Webb said. “At that time I contacted our District Attorney (Frank Parrish of Elizabeth City) to fill him in on the status of this case and we both decided that the SBI was the best way to handle the investigation.”

An SBI agent from the Greenville office was assigned to the case. Webb said that agent completed his investigation in early November and warrants were drawn based on the findings of that probe into Byrum’s alleged criminal actions.

Ex-Principal Takes Plea Deal in Embezzlement Case in Michigan


The former Royal Oak High School principal who was charged with with taking funds from Royal Oak's student activities account has accepted a plea bargain.
Michael Greening, 46, of Royal Oak, pleaded guilty to one count of embezzlement of more than $1,000 but less than $20,000 as part of a negotiated plea deal he struck in Oakland County Circuit Court today.
As part of the plea bargain, a second embezzlement count was dismissed, as were two alternative counts. Judge Shalina Kumar ordered a sentencing hearing to be held on Jan. 22 at 10 a.m.
When asked if he had come into possession of money belonging to student accounts and used it for his personal use, Greening, under oath, answered, “Yes.”
Greening resigned from all employment with the school district in June.
As part of the negotiated deal, Greening has agreed to pay $25,558 in restitution. Costs for legal and accounting fees are still subject to determination at a future hearing.
Because Greening has no prior convictions, the sentencing guidelines are low—probation to six months jail time. Assistant Prosecutor Robert Novy did not offer a position on sentencing in court.
Under the law, after five years, Greening is eligible to apply for an expungement proceeding, which allows a person with a single criminal conviction to make his or her records unavailable.
Superintendent Shawn Lewis-Lakin provided this statement:
Our commitment has always been to an objective, thorough, complete, and fair process to resolve this very sad situation. Our internal investigation, the work of external auditors, the police investigation, and the prosecutor's office all came to the same conclusion. Mr. Greening's admission of wrongdoing and his guilty plea move us towards final resolution.
Since January 3, 2012, Royal Oak High School has been under the leadership of Mr. Jim Moll, interim principal. This school year, enrollments in Advanced Placement Courses are at an all-time high, and new supports for students at risk of failure have been implemented. Student achievement is increasing. The school is moving forward. Mr. Moll's service as our interim principal will continue through June 30, 2013. In January 2013, we will begin the hiring process for our next principal.

As Kentwood pastor's embezzlement tally doubles to $316,000, some church members continue their support in Michigan

Even as a Kent County Circuit Court judge learned a long-time Kentwood area pastor embezzled more than $300,000—about two and a half times the amount first thought—church members came out in full force Tuesday, Dec. 11, to support their former leader at his sentencing.
"We just know that God is faithful," said Debbie Mills, who has attended Heritage Baptist Church for 20 of the nearly 26 years Etheridge Henry Moore served as pastor. "He loves us no matter what."

Moore was sentenced to 1 to 20 years in prison, but will be recommended for a boot camp program that could allow him to be back to work at a Holland area car dealership within six months.

The situation, Circuit Judge Donald Johnston said, was rather unique. Johnston told church members he had likely spent more time on Moore's case than "any others I've dealt with all year long."

Moore turned himself in to church leadership and asked they contact police about his actions. Church members eventually submitted several letters displaying their hope and support for Moore's future, Johnston said.

But as a judge, Johnston's job was different than that of a pastor, he said. He had to focus on the crime at hand.

Though the amount of money involved was first thought to be around $113,000, Johnston was told last week the actual embezzlement likely totaled about $206,000. This week, he learned from the church board director that losses totaled at least $316,000.

Speaking of his job as a judge, he said, "We're not in the forgiveness business. We're in the adjudication business."

Johnston hoped the sentence would allow Moore to return to work soon—where he reportedly earned "salesman of the month" status recently—to begin paying restitution.

Moore's wife wiped away tears as she sat in the courtroom gallery, surrounded by church members.

As Moore addressed the court, he spoke to her in an emotional moment, acknowledging "I'm not the husband and father" others believed him to be.

"The church loved and trusted me for nearly 26 years and I took advantage of that trust," he said. "I have embarrassed the cause of Christ."

"I plead for mercy today," he said.

Moore must pay $320,000 in restitution. That will cover an estimated $316,000 loss and about $4,000 the church spent on accounting services to determine losses.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Woman Pleads Guilty In United Catholic Credit Union Embezzlement in Michigan

A Toledo woman who allegedly pocketed about $2.1 million from the United Catholic Credit Union in Temperance has pleaded guilty as charged to one count each of financial institution embezzlement and racketeering, with both felonies punishable by up to 20 years.

This photo provided by Michigan Department of Attorney General, shows Sharon Broadway of Toledo, Ohio. Broadway, 61, who was the sole employee of a Michigan credit union has been charged with embezzling $2.1 million from United Catholic Credit Union in Temperance, Mich.

Sharon Broadway, 61, pleaded guilty to embezzling the money from the credit union since 1985 before Monroe County Circuit Court Judge Michael A. Weipert. Both the embezzlement and the racketeering charges are 20-year felonies, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said. She will be sentenced by Judge Weipert at 9 a.m. Jan. 17.

Mr. Schuette charged the woman after a routine examination by the Office of Financial and Insurance Regulation (OFIR) revealed that a substantial amount of certificates of deposit went unrecorded on the credit union’s books.

“Whenever a Michigan family makes a deposit into their accredited financial institution, they should not have to worry about the safety of their hard-earned money or that their assets are being used for personal gain,” Mr. Schuette said in a press release. “Our office will continue to work closely with the OFIR to bring criminals to justice when they unfairly manipulate the system.”

As manager, secretary, board member and sole employee of the credit union, Ms. Broadway was able to conceal her crimes for years using a complex money laundering scheme involving forged checks and multiple aliases. According to the charges, she used the embezzled money as her personal funds.

The OFIR closed the credit union in August and appointed the National Credit Union Administration as receiver. The administration insures credit union deposits much the same way the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation insures bank deposits, therefore no credit union depositors lost money, Mr. Schuette said. On Dec. 4, the OFIR issued a formal prohibition order that prevents Ms. Broadway from working in the Michigan-chartered credit union industry in the future.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Church embezzler must pay back $152,000 in Nevada

A former church bookkeeper and first-grade teacher was sentenced Monday to a year in jail as part of her probation for embezzling more than $152,000 from the church over eight years.

District Judge Michael Gibbons sentenced Tracey L. Taylor, 45, of Carson City, to six years in Nevada state prison, suspended and placed her on five years' probation.

She is to pay $152,380.62 restitution to Corpus Christi Catholic Church at $1,000 per month, perform 200 hours of community service and serve a year in Douglas County Jail. Taylor paid $5,000 of the restitution on Monday.

In exchange for her guilty plea, charges will not be filed against Taylor by Carson City authorities for embezzlement, which occurred while the church was located on the grounds of the old Stewart Indian School.

In 2009, the parish moved to property in northern Douglas County where Taylor was working when the embezzlement was discovered in January.

The Rev. James Setelik, Corpus Christi pastor, testified Monday about the effect the crime had on the parish, which he characterized as one of the poorest in the Reno diocese made up of working-class parishioners.

“You might not think $152,000 over eight years is a lot of money. But our income is $180,000 a year. She has taken one-eighth of our income over the past eight years,” Setelik said.

Setelik said Taylor was altering computer records so the system would not show discrepancies. The case came to light when an NV Energy representative called Setelik to ask whether the church was paying parishioners' utility bills.

“It was quite a fluke we found out,” he said.

Taylor worked 10 hours a week for the church.

He said church officials began reviewing payments and discovered “she (Taylor) had made a career stealing money from the church from the inception of her job” in 2004.

She also taught for eight years at St. Teresa of Avila grade school in Carson City.

“This is money we really could have used,” Setelik said.

He said while the embezzlement was going on, Taylor was recommending cuts in parish programs because of church finances.

“We cut out gifts we distributed at Mother's Day and Father's Day, and Christmas ornaments we gave to families,” he said.

He called Taylor's crime well planned.

“Somebody was plotting this for eight years against a church that is financially strapped,” he said. “This is really a crime against the people of this parish; people who put do nations in the collection basket every week.”

He said the crime tarnished the church's reputation and put a halt to its capital campaign because people didn't trust what would happen to their donations.

“My belief is that I think with a few months in jail she would really see what life is like when you commit a crime,” Setelik said.

The priest said he was pessi m istic restitution would be paid in full.

Taylor apologized to Setelik, church officials, her family, friends and parishioners.

“I can't justify what I did,” she said. “I got caught up in living a life I couldn't afford. I betrayed my friends and family. I will do whatever I need to make it right.”

Taylor's attorney, Tod Young, said she used the money to pay bills and attempt to maintain a lifestyle she could not afford.

“Tracey tries to tell you how this came about,” Young said. “She can't envision this herself. She said she never thought this was a long-term solution. She just found herself needing some money. She did the wrong thing. It became easier to do it the next time. If she were a thief at heart, she wouldn't offer you an explanation.”

Investigators discovered 19 checks to Walmart totaling $13,789; 18 to Orchard Bank in City of Industry, Calif., for $11,087; and 16 checks to Merrick Bank in Hicks ville, N.Y., all credited to Taylor's accounts.

Prosecutor Karen Dustman asked that Taylor be sentenced to a year in jail.

“She wanted to maintain a lifestyle ... to which she was not entitled because she didn't have the funds. She hurt the parish,” Dust man said.

In weighing her sentence, Gibbons said Taylor had no prior criminal history, was educated, remorseful, and had family support.

Gibbons said she seemed unlikely to reoffend.

He agreed that probation was appropriate rather than sending her to prison where she faced up to 10 years.

But he said the “intentional, repeated” aspects of the crime merited jail time.

“I think you knew this was coming,” Gibbons said. “It's difficult to face, but you were very close to going to prison. Most people would not be getting probation.”

While on probation, Taylor must abstain from alcohol, controlled substances and gambling.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Embezzlement probe into ELCA bookkeeper nears end in Minnesota

Eleven months after police began investigating him, the bookkeeper suspected of embezzling more than $714,000 from a Moorhead-based church synod continues to live in the stately rural home he allegedly remodeled and expanded with the stolen money.
Robert Duane Larson hasn’t been criminally charged, but Moorhead police Lt. Tory Jacobson said the detective working on the case is nearing the end of his investigation.
“He anticipates being able to request the appropriate charges in the very near future,” Jacobson said last week.
Larson, 61, declined an interview Thursday at his rural Wolverton home about 15 miles south of Moorhead.
“I have no comment. Thank you,” he said as he shut the door.
Meanwhile, the Northwestern Minnesota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America that Larson allegedly fleeced has recovered some of the money through the insurance process, Bishop Lawrence Wohlrabe said.
“We’ve recovered a portion of the monies that were embezzled, and I anticipate that we’ll be able to make a fuller announcement about the amount and how we intend to expend those funds” before the end of the year, Wohlrabe said Friday.
Warrants pile up
Larson served as the synod’s bookkeeper from September 2004 until he was fired by the synod’s executive committee on Jan. 2 after confessing to financial misconduct, according to a Jan. 6 letter from Wohlrabe to church leaders and congregations.
Larson also volunteered as financial manager for the Rural Life Outreach program, a nonprofit that helps financially strapped farmers and others pay their bills. The synod donates $1,000 annually to the program, which pays companies directly for the outstanding bills.
Moorhead police believe Larson embezzled from the synod by transferring money to the RLO program and making unauthorized payments to himself and creditors. A preliminary audit revealed $714,168.93 in unauthorized transfers, according to an affidavit filed in support of a search warrant application.
More than a dozen search warrants have been filed in the case since Wohlrabe first contacted police Jan. 1.
Most of the warrants were for records of bank and credit card accounts. The most recent warrant, returned Aug. 27, also sought financial records for Larson’s 59-year-old wife, Leslie. Other warrants targeted Larson’s cellphone account and his utility customer records.
Feds involved
In the affidavit, police said they suspected Larson of possibly using the embezzled funds to pay off a 2007 car loan and 2008 house loan.
Larson also speculated in a police interview that he put a lot of the money toward a $150,000 renovation of his 82-year-old home in rural Wolverton, the affidavit states.
Wilkin County property records show that in 2011, 1,008 square feet was added to the Larsons’ two-story home, which sports gray brick, white trim and green and yellow siding. They also added a 1,089-square-foot attached garage.
After the improvements, the estimated market value of the home and 4.2 acres on which it sits increased from $93,800 to $164,000, property records show.
Police searched the home on the afternoon of Jan. 10, seizing two journals, a computer, credit cards and receipts, carbon copies of check blanks, miscellaneous paperwork and a flash card from a camera.
Jon Evert, the RLO program coordinator, said he is aware that federal authorities also are looking into the case because of the potential income tax implications.
Evert said he has received indications that court action should come by the end of the year.
“We’re just trying to be patient,” he said.
Synod recovers
Wohlrabe, the bishop, said synod leaders were still determining how to share information about the recovered funds.
“Frankly, we want to be able to tell the people of our synod not only that we’ve received the funds but that we’ve actually turned around and made well some of the ministries that suffered as a result of the embezzlement,” he said.
Wohlrabe said the ordeal prompted a “top-to-bottom reworking” of how the synod handles its finances. Its previous bookkeeper also was fired in 2004 for fund mismanagement. She later pleaded guilty to theft in Clay County District Court for making nearly $24,000 in unauthorized purchases.
The synod no longer employs an internal bookkeeper, instead paying Fiebiger, Swanson, West & Co. of Moorhead to manage the books.
“That’s been a huge help,” Wohlrabe said.
The synod also created an audit committee to review internal control procedures, and it is evaluating whether to hire a different company for its external audit in 2013, Wohlrabe said.
“I can say with a fair amount of confidence that … the way we account for, report out all of our finances is vastly improved over the period before this,” he said. “We’ve just tried to learn in every respect how we can do everything we can to prevent this from ever happening again.”
Wohlrabe called the case a “sad, grievous thing” but said it hasn’t hurt giving by congregations. In fact, at the end of October, year-to-date giving was up $40,000 over the same time period last year, he said.
“It would not seem to me that they have, as a result of this, lost faith and felt unable to continue supporting the synod. It seems to be the opposite, and that, of course, is very encouraging to us,” he said, adding that he believes the synod’s transparency throughout the ordeal has helped

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Failed charter school paid principal's husband $460K in Florida


The failed Orange County charter school that gave its principal a payout of $519,000 in taxpayer dollars after closing in June also paid her husband more than $460,000 during a five-year period, audits show.
The payments to Steven A. Young, which averaged more than $80,000 a year, were for performing "certain management services," according to annual audits paid for by the school. The total included about $41,000 for services to be performed after the school closed, according to one of the audits.Young, husband of NorthStar High School Principal Kelly Young, helped establish the charter school 11 years ago and was its first board president. He resigned from the NorthStar board in August 2008, the same month he was arraigned on charges of soliciting prostitutes while on duty as an Orange County sheriff's commander. He was ultimately adjudicated guilty of three charges and lost his law-enforcement job. He is now a divorce attorney.
The payments to Steven Young appear to violate state law prohibiting public officers and employees from doing business with family members, according to legal and charter-school experts. The law states that no employee or officer may purchase services "from any business entity of which the officer or employee or the officer's or employee's spouse or child is an officer, partner, director, or proprietor."
Reached Friday at his law office on Curry Ford Road, Young would not comment.
Between 2010 and 2012, the school also paid at least two of its five board members a total of $48,000 to do clerical and administrative work for the school. Those payments also appear to violate state law and conflict with NorthStar's contract with Orange County schools, district officials say.
"I don't believe we have to stand by idly and watch this abuse," said state Sen. David Simmons, who sits on two state education committees and is also a lawyer. "Those are monies that should come back to the people of Central Florida."
Simmons, who weeks ago expressed outrage over the half-million-dollar payout and hundreds of thousands in compensation that Kelly Young had received from the school, said he would push for changes in state law that would give local school boards more oversight of charter-school spending.
After inquiries by the Orlando Sentinel, officials with Orange County Public Schools are looking into the legality of the payments. But the investigation may eventually fall to the state Commission on Ethics, which can levy penalties or order restitution if it finds a violation of the law.
Under Florida law, charter schools are run by independent governing boards. Although the schools use public money, state and district officials have little to no control over how the money is spent. According to an August report by the state auditor general, a third of state charter schools had accounting problems, legal violations or other problems in their 2011 audits.
Rebekah Benson, a member of the NorthStar charter board, said the school district should have known about the large sums that were paid to Kelly Young for years.
Forms that NorthStar submitted to the Internal Revenue Service indicate that Kelly Young was paid $144,903 in "reportable compensation" in 2008-09, $208,746 in 2009-10 and $219,372 in 2010-11. The IRS filings, which also reflect payments for management services, conflict with records the school submitted to the state that showed it was not using a management company and was paying Kelly Young $72,000 a year.Both sets of documents, in turn, conflict with Young's final contract, which entitled her to $305,000 a year in salary and bonuses during her final two years. Along with her $519,000 bonus, her total compensation package in her last year added up to $824,000.
"It's so academic," Benson said of the furor over the payouts, which were made with taxpayer money. "We have a government that spends $17 trillion at the drop of a hat."
Board member David Barszcz, an attorney, would not comment, and board members Amy Harmon and Tracy Curp could not be reached. Kelly Young was the board president for the past several years.
Neither Kelly Young nor her lawyer returned calls for comment.
Kelly and Steve Young were among a group connected with Passport Charter School who helped establish NorthStar 11 years ago. An administrator from the charter elementary and middle school joined several parents of disabled children who wanted to create an inclusive charter high school.
Kelly Young, a carpet saleswoman, made it clear that she wanted to be principal. The board, led by Steve Young at the time, hired her, and the Passport administrator left in displeasure, said Judy Grimsley, one of the original board members.
"She had no credentials as principal. She wasn't even a teacher. She had a good marketing background, we thought," said Grimsley, who formerly ran the Orlando Sentinel's research department. "Maybe we were just stupid. She had me fooled for a long time."
Within about a year, Grimsley and the other board members who were connected with Passport were "systematically weeded out" and replaced, Grimsley said.
Most of the current board was in place by 2005, according to incorporation paperwork filed with the state.
In 2010, the NorthStar board approved the contract with Kelly Young that provided for $305,000 in pay a year and set the stage for her $519,000 payout after the school closed. The vast majority of charter-school principals in Central Florida earn less than $80,000 a year.
This summer, Steve Young was also paid about $41,000 for services expected to be performed after the school closed. That information was contained in the school's final audit.
Those audits are supposed to be reviewed by the district, the state auditor general and the state Department of Education. District officials missed the payments to Steve Young, though a blogger with the Fordham Foundation's Education Gadfly Weekly spotted them in early November.
Orange County schools are in the process of hiring a financial expert to review future audits. A representative with the state auditor general's office said it reviews audits to see if they meet financial reporting standards, not to see if they comply with state law. Officials with the state Department of Education did not respond to questions about how they handle the audits.
According to former teachers, the school should have been shut down years ago.
Some classes were taught by uncertified teachers, several former staffers said. Scott Simmons, who taught history and art at the school from 2002 to 2007, provided a document showing that the school submitted class schedules that made it appear that only certified teachers were being used. It showed Simmons teaching health, a class he never taught.
The school had inadequate books, overcrowded classrooms, no library and a cafeteria without food service.
Simmons also said the principal routinely forced out troublesome students after they were counted for funding purposes.
"Those kids had zero chances of making it," he said.
Simmons said he reported problems, including cheating on a Stanford Achievement standardized test, to the administrator who oversaw charter schools for Orange County in 2006, but the complaints never led anywhere. The school's charter was renewed in 2007. The Orange County school district was poised to close down the school for poor academic performance and other issues when the NorthStar board voluntarily closed the school this year.
In 2006, the Orlando Sentinel published a story about students being forced out of the school. District officials required Kelly Young to reinstate at least one student.
"We probably made a big mistake," said founding board member Grimsley. "My heart is broken that she did this."

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Former secretary sentenced in Michigan school embezzlement case

A former middle school secretary who stole from student fundraisers at Croswell-Lexington Middle School was slated to begin today serving 60 days in the Sanilac County Jail, according to the Sanilac County Prosecutor’s Office.

Cheryl Francis, 39, of Lexington Township was sentenced Monday to serve time in the Sanilac County Jail, 30 days of community service and two years of probation.

Franics also must pay about $23,023 in restitution to Croswell-Lexington Community Schools.

Francis pleaded no contest Oct. 1 to one count of embezzlement of more than $1,000 but less than $20,000.

She took money from the school between 2009 and 2012, Croswell-Lexington Superintendent Kevin Miller had said. The money had been meant for things such as a Cedar Point trip and a new electronic sign for the middle school.

Former OSU Employee Sentenced For Embezzlement From The School in Oklahoma

A former Oklahoma State University employee who pleaded guilty in July of embezzling more than $80,000 from the school has been ordered to serve two years of a 10 year prison sentence.
Cynthia Low, 47, appeared in a Payne County courtroom on Friday for her sentencing.

According to court records, Low used an OSU issued credit card to purchase a number of items, including $2,300 in sex toys.

She was arrested and charged in March 2011 after an investigation by OSU.

Low worked in the Stillwater school's Chemistry department was suppose to use the credit card for laboratory and office supplies.

The judge also ordered Low to pay almost $84,000 in restitution.

Mother, daughter facing charges for embezzling from Porter, Oklahoma Public Schools

Two former employees of Porter Consolidated Schools are facing embezzlement charges.

48 year-old Lorri Tedder and 29 year-old Ashley Myers are accused of stealing nearly $4,000 from the district.

According to court documents, the Porter Consolidated Schools Superintendent, Mark Fenton, contacted Wagoner police in late October about the possible theft, the investigation is now in the hands of the District Attorney's office in Wagoner county.

"There are two charges of embezzlement against Lorri Tedder and Ashley Myers and the District Attorney's Office, Brian Kuester's office, we will prosecute these to the fullest extent," said Stephanie Milburn, the lead prosecutor for District 27 which cover's Wagoner County.

Court documents show a total of 15 unauthorized charges were made at Walmarts in Wagoner, Muskogee and Coweta.

"A school credit card from Walmart was utilized to take and use the money from the school," said Milburn.

Tedder and Myers are accused of making the purchases without the school's knowledge and for their personal gain.

According to Fenton, both women were employed as secretaries here for Porter schools and Ashley Myers is also Lorri Tedder's daughter.

Investigators say Myers used the card 13 times for more than $3,000 worth of purchases. Her mother, Tedder used the card twice for about $600 worth of purchases.

Court documents show Tedder worked for the district for 18 years, Myers for three.

Porter resident and parent, Timothy Bergstrom says he's surprised to hear this.

"I know the lady, she's a nice person, never had a problem with her, like you said, she's been there forever," said Bergstrom.

He's referring to Tedder.

"$4,000 doesn't really seem like a lot," said Bergstrom.

Even though he believes the dollar amount is small, he's upset about the school's losing money.

"I am because it is a school, like I said, I know the lady, she's a good person, she just made a mistake," said Bergstrom.

Both Tedder and Myers are no longer employed at Porter schools.

They've both posted bond and are expected to be in court in December.

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School official in Utah pleads guilty to embezzlement

Authorities say a former school district official in southern Utah has pleaded guilty to embezzlement.

The Garfield County sheriff's office says Justin Baugh (Bah) accepted a pair of felony charges of misuse of public funds.

The former business administrator for the Garfield County School District was arrested in 2010 after state auditors determined he misappropriated about $70,000 in public funds.

Special prosecutor Jerry Jaeger (JAY'-gur) says Baugh returned about $50,000 almost immediately and will pay the rest in restitution.

Jaeger says Baugh wrote checks to himself, increased his matching 401(k) contribution, took unentitled health-care benefits and helped himself to generous travel stipends.

Baugh was sentenced on Thursday to 30 days in jail and three years of probation.