Thursday, December 26, 2013

Leominster man indicted in Ashburnham Westminster Youth Hockey embezzlement

A Worcester Superior Court grand jury on Tuesday indicted a Leominster man on charges he embezzled $29,000 from the Ashburnham Westminster Youth Hockey Association when he was treasurer in 2012.

Roger Lee of 232 Mechanic St., Leominster, was scheduled to appear in Winchendon District Court on Wednesday morning, but the indictment bumped his case up to Worcester Superior Court.

Tim Connolly, spokesman for the Worcester County District Attorney's Office, said Wednesday's court appearance is canceled and no date has been set for his next court appearance.

In 2010, Lee became treasurer of the Ashburnham Westminster Youth Hockey Association. Remaining officials from that group said he completely cleaned out their bank account, leaving them in financial peril. Lee is no longer treasurer.

He is now charged with two counts of larceny of more than $250 by a common scheme.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

UVM employee accused of embezzlement

A former University of Vermont employee who worked with campus police on criminal investigations was charged Tuesday with embezzlement from UVM.

Daniel S. Austin, 47, of Jericho is charged with stealing $9,860 from inactive accounts in the UVM Cat Card system. The debit-like cards track information including purchases, meal plans, building access and discounted services at some locations.

UVM police said they identified 68 victims and 348 transactions from October 2012 until July.

Austin, who was hired in 2006, was a senior equipment technician for the Cat Card office but is no longer employed at UVM, spokesman Enrique Corredera said Tuesday evening.

Austin was trained to run reports and to locate dormant accounts each year for the Cat Card system, which also provides services to Champlain and St. Michael’s colleges and to Norwich University, the police said.

UVM police said nothing about the embezzlement complaint in July or when investigators cited Austin Sept. 29 and ordered him to appear in criminal court.

UVM police issued a brief news release Tuesday, the day of his arraignment, after court had closed for the day stating that Austin was arraigned.

Austin told the Burlington Free Press in a phone interview Tuesday night that he hopes to work out a resolution in the case. He said he pleaded not guilty to the charge in Vermont Superior Court, was appointed a public defender to represent him and was released on conditions.

Corredera later released a four-page affidavit from investigating officer Bill Sioss.

“I have worked with Austin many times over my career, often times he assisted the UVM Police in obtaining information relative to ongoing criminal investigations,” Sioss wrote in a sworn affidavit.

The Cat Card office also is responsible for maintaining most surveillance cameras on the UVM campus, Sioss stated.

UVM police said workers at the Maplefields store on Williston Road in South Burlington became concerned in July about suspicious transactions, including whether lottery purchases were authorized under the program.
The Cat Card office later called UVM police, and a full investigation began.

When a student, faculty or staff member is no longer affiliated with UVM or one of the other institutions served by the Cat Card due to retirement, graduation or resignation, the card becomes inactive, Sioss stated.

Each year, UVM then attempts to refund the money remaining on the card, minus a $10 processing fee, police said.

Austin would run reports in the Cat Card office looking for inactive accounts with a balance, Sioss stated. He also had the ability to delete those with a balance.

Sioss stated Maplefields was aware of five transactions from July 1-21 that totaled $960, and the store provided video surveillance for four of the case. The video showed Austin making the transactions, but the purchases showed up on inactive accounts, police said.

Investigators learned that Austin had the ability to change his own account to any of the dormant accounts to allow him to make purchases with the unused funds, Sioss stated.

Corredera, the UVM spokesman, said the university decided that it would make refunds to the victims. He said most were associated with UVM at one time, but others were at Champlain College.

“We decided to make all the people whole. UVM will issue checks,” he said. “Obviously we have taken steps to tighten up the system in an effort to make it unlikely to happen in the future.”

A former University of Vermont employee has agreed to plead guilty to a federal charge of embezzlement — a case that began, officials said, with the receipt 18 months ago of an anonymous letter.

Jody Farnham, a UVM employee who provided administrative support to the Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese, embezzled at least $185,000 during a six-year period ending in late 2012, according to a charging document on file at U.S. District Court in Burlington. She is accused of having done so by altering tuition checks from enrollees in the cheesemaking program to make herself a co-payee, the document alleges, and then depositing the checks in her own bank account.

Farnham also is accused of embezzling cash tuition payments given to her by enrollees and of using UVM credit cards to make personal purchases. This is the latest in a series of embezzlement cases to emerge in Vermont public institutions during the past several years.

In an agreement signed Nov. 25, 2013, and filed in court this week, Farnham agreed to plead guilty to the allegations. The charging document, dated Sunday, includes a forfeiture notice, under which Farnham, if convicted, would have to pay back $185,000. Asked about the lag between the plea agreement’s signing and the Monday court filing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Waples declined comment.

A listed phone number for Farnham could not be found Wednesday. A phone message and an email to her attorney, Robert Hemley, were not returned.

The Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese provided educational, research and consulting assistance to cheesemakers and offered courses and workshops in artisan cheesemaking, according to the charging document. Farnham was employed by UVM’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences as an office program support specialist. Her annual salary in 2011-12 was $30,649, according to UVM’s website.

Farnham was co-author with Marc Druart of “The Joy of Cheesemaking: The Ultimate Guide to Understanding, Making and Eating Fine Cheese” (Sky Horse Publishing, 2011). The book jacket identifies her as the program coordinator and administrative director for the Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese, and Druart as the institute’s master cheesemaker.

Tom Vogelmann, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, said he received an anonymous letter July 17, 2012, “alleging redirection” of registration funds for the institute’s workshops.

“We started an investigation of the finances at that time,” Vogelmann said. Records were turned over to UVM auditors, who eventually called in UVM police to investigate, he said.

Farnham resigned Jan. 28, 2013, effective Feb. 15, 2013, according to Enrique Corredera, university spokesman. The FBI assigned an agent to the case July 19, 2013.

Institute losses
The institute stopped offering regular workshops in May 2013. According to the institute’s page on the UVM website, the need for the workshops diminished as cheesemaking expertise grew in Vermont. The page states that the workshops had been partially paid for by federal earmark money — dollars that eventually ran out. Tuition fees were the other main source of workshop funding.

Vogelmann said the institute’s finances fluctuated during the past six or seven years — sometimes running in the black, and sometimes significantly in the red.

The institute’s losses rose to $243,343, according to Corredera.

Vogelmann attributed recent losses to a drop in the demand for workshops, and he pointed out the institute ran up a shortfall of about $50,000 after the alleged embezzlement had ended. In lieu of workshops, he said, the institute is focusing on consulting and research, with particular interest in issues of food safety.

He said the workshop program served its purpose as an economic-development program in the years after the institute was founded in 2004, with the result that artisan cheese comprises a strong industry in Vermont, “something we can all be proud of.”

Asked why the embezzlement, which the authorities say spanned six years, wasn’t detected sooner, Corredera replied via email: “Part of UVM’s mission is to foster economic development. Such activity often requires subsidizing programs that lose money but which will lead to economic growth. That was the case with VIAC.” He added that the institute’s fluctuating proceeds and the absence of a steady revenue stream made it difficult to notice an anomaly.

Farnham, 54, began working for UVM in July 2003.

Conviction on the federal charge of embezzlement, a felony, can draw a prison term of up to 10 years and a fine of $250,000.

In the plea agreement, federal prosecutors pledged to recommend a sentence at the low end of the sentencing guidelines range and reiterated that the U.S. is entitled to a forfeiture of $185,000.

Federal prosecutors had jurisdiction because UVM received federal benefits amounting to more than $10,000 during the six-year period.

The case has been assigned to Chief U.S. District Judge Christina Reiss. A hearing regarding the plea agreement is yet to be scheduled.

'Deeply disappointed'
This was the second case of alleged embezzlement at UVM to emerge in the past two months. In December, a former employee of UVM’s Cat Card office was charged with having stolen $9,860 from inactive accounts. Daniel S. Austin told the Free Press he had pleaded not guilty and hoped to work out a resolution of the case.

Corredera also issued the following statement by email Wednesday:

“We are deeply disappointed that our trust was so fundamentally violated, but at the same time we are confident that we are doing all we can to reduce embezzlement risk to a minimum. We are implementing a centralized online registration system for non-credit courses to address this area of vulnerability.

“Additionally,” Corredera continued, “the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is taking all the necessary steps to strengthen its system of checks and balances across all its operations. Ultimately, this is about risk management, not risk elimination. Our people are our most valuable resource, and we consider this to be a rare case.”

Woman pleads guilty in embezzlement from Lansing school PTO

A Lansing woman who prosecutors say stole between $7,000 and $8,000 from a Lansing elementary school’s parent-teacher organization has pleaded guilty to an embezzlement charge.

Tammy McGrath, 34, pleaded guilty Monday in Clinton County Circuit Court to attempted embezzlement of more than $1,000 but less than $20,000, officials said. She faces up to 2½ years in prison. A sentence hearing is set for Jan. 27.

Prosecutors say McGrath, the onetime treasurer of the PTO at Sheridan Road Elementary, embezzled the money between October 2012 and July or August of this year.

When she was charged in September, McGrath was working as a bus driver for Lansing schools. She initially was placed on unpaid administrative leave, but now no longer works for the district, according to district spokesman Bob Kolt.

Clinton County Assistant Prosecutor Mike Clarizio said McGrath will have to pay restitution. Clarizio said McGrath disputes the total amount missing from the PTO accounts.

“There might have to be a restitution hearing to determine the exact amount,” he said.

McGrath’s attorney, Fred Blackmond, did not respond to messages seeking comment.

Sheridan Road Elementary is part of the Lansing School District, but is located in DeWitt Township in Clinton County.

Troy, Michigan priest seeks access to bank accounts frozen during probe

A popular priest removed at St. Thomas More Parish during an embezzlement investigation is seeking access to his personal bank accounts frozen nine months ago by authorities.

Rev. Edward Belczak, 67, has not been criminally charged but was “temporarily excluded” as head of the parish in January by the Archdiocese of Detroit after an internal audit revealed $429,000 in “questionable transactions and practices.” Belczak, pastor at the church for nearly 30 years, was also ordered out of his church-provided lodgings.

Troy police obtained a search warrant and had Belczak’s bank accounts frozen as part of an investigation that now involves the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. A request to unfreeze the accounts scheduled Wednesday before Oakland Circuit Judge Denise Langford Morris was adjourned until Dec. 18.

Belczak’s attorney, who could not be reached for comment, wants Morris to unfreeze the accounts because Belczak has not been charged months later.

Troy City Attorney Julie Quinlan Dufrane declined comment but wrote in legal filings to Morris that any conclusion “Troy police have evidently found no basis to charge ... is simply wrong. Federal and state prosecutors continue to review hundreds of documents and financial transactions and are proceeding cautiously and prudently likely because of the standing of Plaintiff within the Archdiocese of Detroit. ...

“Nine months is not an excessive amount of time to spend reviewing the information for possible charges,” Dufrane wrote in a Dec. 8 filing. “Moreover, at this point there are serious questions concerning the possibility that the funds held in the subject account (s) may not rightfully belong to plaintiff. There is also a strong possibility that if the accounts are unfrozen, the accounts will be significantly if not fully depleted and the rightful owner (s) of funds will never recover the funds.”

In a press release earlier this year, the archdiocese highlighted concerns about financial dealings that included Belczak allegedly taking at least $108,000 in unauthorized compensation, directing money to himself over the past six years and compensating a “ghost employee” $240,000 over the past six years

Another issue under investigation is Belczak’s purchase of a $500,000 Florida condominium in 2005 from a former church employee, Janice Verschuren. Verschuren, St. Thomas More’s administrator and facilities manager for nearly 20 years, left her job in January.

Belczak’s pay falls into the mid-$30,000 range, according to the archdiocese.

Fulton woman charged in church embezzlement case

A Fulton woman stands accused of embezzling more than $4,000 from her church.

Cathy Louise Parker, 60, of 530 Reese Road, Fulton, was arrested on Monday, Dec. 2, and charged with embezzlement. She received an initial court appearance before Itawamba County Justice Court Judge Barry Davis and was issued a $1 million bond.

The arrest took place in Waukegan, Ill., where investigators said she was staying with family. In order to be brought back to Itawamba County, Parker had to sign extradition papers, which investigators said she did willingly. She was escorted back to Itawamba County by an Itawamba County investigator and jailed last Friday. Officials said she has remained cooperative throughout the investigation and arrest.

Investigators with the Itawamba County Sheriff’s Department said the size of the bond was due to the flight risk Parker presents.

Parker is accused of embezzling money from East Fulton Baptist Church, where she served as treasurer for more than three years. According to Jason Dickinson with the Itawamba County Sheriff’s Department, who is investigating the case, Parker is believed to have been taking small amounts of money from the church treasury throughout her tenure as treasurer. She recently left the position, Dickinson said, to return to her home state of Illinois.

The new treasurer reportedly noticed some discrepancies in the bookkeeping, leading to the investigation.

According to Dickinson, the exact amount of money allegedly stolen from the church has yet to be determined, but he estimates it to be more than $4,000.

Parker is scheduled to appear before the next Itawamba County Grand Jury, set for February.

Former church bookkeeper facing prison time for embezzlement

The former bookkeeper of a suburban St. Louis church faces sentencing March 7 after admitting that she took more than $300,000 from a church checking account.

Federal prosecutors say 52-year-old Elaine Lewis of Fenton pleaded guilty to mail fraud on Tuesday in U.S. District Court in St. Louis. Lewis worked as a bookkeeper at Lutheran Church of the Resurrection in St. Louis County from 2009 through August. Authorities say she used a variety of schemes to embezzle money from the church's checking account.

Lewis could face up to 20 years in prison, and restitution is mandatory.

Former Yukon FFA instructor charged with embezzlement

A former Yukon FFA Organization instructor accused of “skimming” a local couple of more than $4,000 on a single livestock purchase has been charged with embezzlement in Canadian County District Court.

Photo - Photo of a calf by Thinkstock
Photo of a calf by Thinkstock
Jason Matthew Bow, 39, was charged Wednesday with two counts of embezzlement, a felony, accused of overcharging two women on separate livestock purchases in June 2010.

Bow, who resigned his position at Yukon Public Schools in May 2011, has not been arrested, records show.

Debbie Wright, who purchased a show calf through Bow for her daughter, was charged $7,000 by the former agriculture instructor, records show.

Bow paid only $2,750 for the calf, meaning that he overcharged Wright by $4,250, court records show.

Wright, who grew up showing animals in rural Oklahoma, said the practice of agriculture instructors overcharging parents and students for livestock is known as “skimming.”

Records show that Bow could serve up to five years in state prison if found guilty of overcharging Wright. He also could be fined up to $5,000.

Another district parent, Donna Yanda, allegedly was overcharged by $500 for a show calf purchased through Bow around the same time as Wright's purchase.

Yanda's calf cost $6,250 but Bow charged her $6,750, records show.

Bow could receive up to a year in jail and another fine of up to $5,000 if found guilty of embezzling the $500 from Yanda.

The investigation into Bow began shortly after Wright and her husband, Randy, discovered they had been overcharged for the calf. The couple conducted their own investigation and turned over their findings first to the school district and then to the authorities.

“We eventually took it to the Yukon Police Department when we realized (Yukon Public Schools Superintendent) Bill Denton wasn't going to do anything about it,” Randy Wright said.

“We met with him in February (2011).”

OSBI officials said their investigation into the Yukon FFA program began in June 2011 after they received the case from the Yukon Police Department.

Man Accused Of Embezzlement In Milford from Several clubs

A man is facing charges after Milford police say he embezzled thousands of dollars from several clubs.
Sixty-six-year-old Richard Weir was the Rotary Club’s treasurer, according to police.
They also say further information was developed that alleged Weir stole money from two other non-profits for which he served as treasurer: Milford Special Olympics and the Milford Club.
The Rotary Club audit turned up over $211,000 misappropriated between 1995 and 2008 and over $25,000 from 2008 to 2013.
In addition, the Milford Special Olympics reported missing funds totaling $3,500 in 2012, which were returned this year during the probe.
And the Milford Club reported a loss of over $19,000.
Police say Weir used the money for his personal and business finances.
Weir faces three larceny counts.
He’s free on $20,000 bond and is due in court January 7.

Upstate NY woman accused of embezzling over $50,000 from school district union accounts

A 45-year-old upstate New York woman has been accused of embezzling over $50,000 from a school district union while she served as its treasurer.

Local media outlets report that Amy Wales of Owego is charged with grand larceny in connection with the theft from the Owego-Apalachin Employees Association. She's accused of stealing $51,065 from union bank accounts between June 2012 and June of this year.

The Tioga County Sheriff's Office conducted a three-month investigation into the alleged embezzlement after being alerted by union officials. Wales has been employed with the school district for 15 years.

Wales, who is being represented by the Tioga County Public Defender's Office, was arraigned Tuesday in Owego Village Court and released on her own recognizance. She's due back in village court on Dec. 17.

Woman Accused of Bethany College Embezzlement Enters Plea Agreement

The woman accused of embezzling $500,000 from Bethany College was back in court on Monday for a pre-trial hearing.

In November, Shelly Lough pleaded not guilty to two counts of embezzlement and falsifying accounts. On Monday, both parties reached a plea agreement, however, nothing has been committed to in writing. Brooke County Prosecutor Joe Barki says the plea agreement includes a plea of guilty to two felony charges and an appropriate sentence that is fair and agreeable with the victims in this case. He believes that the case will be resolved in January.

The case began in October of this year, when a financial audit revealed that more than $500,000 in cash was unaccounted for in accounts relating to the college's cash window, which is used to cash student and employee checks.

Couple accused of swindling Manlius church of $444,000 due in court,

 The embezzlement case against a Syracuse couple who served as the treasurer and finance committee chair of the United Methodist Church of Manlius is scheduled for court today.

Former treasurer Mary Meyer, 57, and John Osborn, 55, of 228 Roe Ave., are accused of wiping out the church's endowment in the amount of $444,000.

While their cases are are scheduled for today to address legal arguments -- called motions -- the defendants don't actually have to be there for the case to proceed.

But today's court date does signal that the case is headed towards trial. The judge could set a trial date if he chooses.

The wife and husband are each accused of two felony counts of second-degree grand larceny and one count of third-degree grand larceny for conduct between January 2008 and March of this year.

John Osborn was arraigned in Onondaga County Court in October on charges of embezzling $444,000 from a church in Manlius.

They were accused by an Onondaga County grand jury in October of writing unauthorized checks and making unauthorized money transfers from the church to themselves and a company Osborn owns.

Most of the stolen money was taken from the endowment, which people contributed to in their wills.

In 1992, Osborn was convicted of stealing $120,000 from the Camillus Housing Authority while he was the agency's treasurer. He was sentenced to five years' probation and ordered to repay the money.

Former FSU Official Named in 2-Count Information for Embezzlement, False Tax Return

Former Fairmont State University Vice President and Chief Information Officer, David Tamm, is facing federal embezzlement charges.

A two count information filed in U.S. District Court by Andrew R. Cogar, Assistant U.S. Attorney, charges Tamm with one count of embezzling from a state agency receiving federal funds and one count of making and subscribing a false tax return for the 2012 tax year.

Tamm is accused of misusing funds between Oct. 2007 and Jan. 2013 while he was employed at FSU, according to court documents. The Federal Bureau of Investigation discovered that Tamm used state-issued government purchasing cards, or P-Cards, to purchase more than 300 computer switches from Pomeroy, an electronics company in Lexington, Ky. He did that several times between June 2008 and November 2012. He resold the switches for approximately $638,500, according to the complaint.

Count two charges Tamm with filing a false tax return in 2012. Tamm reported his income to the Internal Revenue Service as $149,415.

The information filed in U.S. District Court also includes a forfeiture allegation in the amount of at least $550,000. In July, U.S. District Court Judge Irene M. Keeley approved the sale of Tamm's 102 Rosewood Court home in Bridgeport that he had purchased in April 2012 with the money he obtained through his mail and wire fraud scheme, according to court filings. He closed on the property for $435,000. The Deed of Trust indicates that Tamm mortgaged the property for $342,500. Proceeds from the sale of the house were deposited into an interest-bearing escrow account maintained by the United States Marshals Service, according to court filings. If Tamm is convicted, the money from the sale of house would be forfeited to the U.S. government.

David Tamm was placed on unpaid administrative leave from the university in January 2013. Court documents said Tamm was questioned by an FBI agent on May 30. Tamm told agents that he was "not a bad person, but that he just made bad decisions."

Marina del Rey Man Charged in Girl Scouts Embezzlement Case

A Marina del Rey man made his first court appearance Wednesday on federal charges of laundering $50,000 out of nearly $370,000 he allegedly embezzled from the Girl Scouts while employed by the organization.

Channing Smack, who was a senior property manager of the Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles, was arrested Tuesday on money laundering charges.

The U.S. Attorney's Office is expected to add embezzlement counts against Smack, who was arrested a day after he withdrew $64,500 from accounts believed to contain proceeds of the alleged scheme. He was fired by the Girl Scouts just prior to his arrest, a spokesman said.

GSGLA spokeswoman Carol Dedrich said the organization was "shocked and disappointed" by the charges against one of its former executives.

"The Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles has very high standards and expectations of our employees and our volunteers," she said. "We understand clearly that we all serve as role models for our girls and we take that responsibility very seriously."

She said the investigation began when GSGLA officials "discovered some irregularities" in Smack's work and turned the information over to federal prosecutors in Los Angeles.

According to the affidavit in support of a criminal complaint, Smack, 51, was responsible for managing the GSGLA's 22 properties in the Los Angeles area.

Prosecutors allege that over the past 18 months, Smack approved invoices for services purportedly provided by a firm called ZB Land Maintenance & Engineering, which is registered under the name of Smack's deceased brother.

Between August 2012 and two months ago, allegedly at Smack's direction, GSGLA issued 23 checks to ZB that totaled $368,278, according to court papers.

Federal prosecutors contend that most of the checks to ZB were deposited into one of two bank accounts opened under the names of the company and the defendant's late brother.

According to the affidavit, bank surveillance photographs show a man resembling Smack either depositing or withdrawing funds into or from those bank accounts.

Prosecutors served federal seizure warrants Monday on three bank accounts believed to contain embezzled funds -- the ZB account and two personal accounts in Smack's name into which he is believed to have transferred funds derived from the GSGLA checks.

Ivy Academia Founders to Pay $300K for Convicted Embezzlement

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Stephen Marcus on Monday ordered the founders of a San Fernando Valley charter school to repay nearly $300,000 for money they embezzled and taxes on the ill-gotten gains.

Yevgency "Eugene" Selivanov and Tatyana Berkovich ran a money-making scheme with public school funds from Ivy Academia Charter Schools, which still has campuses in Woodland Hills, Winnetka, West Hills and Chatsworth.

The husband and wife founded the school network in 2004 and were convicted in trial earlier this year of embezzling school funds, laundering the money and filing a false tax return.

Among the criminal acts: the couple owned one of the school buildings and hiked the rent up $25,000 per year. They also profited from making loans to the school and used school credit cards to buy gifts for themselves and staff.

At a hearing earlier this year, Selivanov, the mastermind behind the scheme, was sentenced to 4 years and 8 months in prison. On Monday, Marcus ordered him to pay $43,899 to the California Franchise Tax Board and $227,896.11 to the charter schools.

Berkovich will have to pay $22,000 to the charter schools. She had been sentenced to 45 days in county jail, probation and community service.

The California Charter School Association feared the case would have a "chilling effect" across the charter community, saying other operators may become reluctant to exercise financial freedoms the organization believes are permissible, such as making loans to schools.

During the sentencing hearing in October, Marcus jumped on the California Charter School Association for issuing supporting briefs on the behalf of the Berkovich and Selivanov defense.

“This case has to make the public wonder, are these new charter schools just a means to defraud the public tax payer?” Marcus asked. “Again, I don’t think this is the case. But to defend Selivanov and Berkovich simply because they run a charter school is not appropriate.”

Man Sentenced for Embezzling $14K From Daly City School PTA

A man who embezzled more than $14,000 from the parent-teacher association at his son's Daly City school was sentenced Thursday to a stay in county jail, according to the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office.

Mathew Hidalgo, 28, of Belmont, was sentenced to serve 90 days in jail starting Feb. 1, as well as three years' probation, prosecutors said.

Hidalgo was president of the Margaret Pauline Brown Elementary School PTA between Sept. 27 and Nov. 14, 2012, when it was determined he had embezzled at least $14,000 of PTA funds.

According to the district attorney's office, he wrote checks for "cash" that he withdrew himself and did not deposit money raised from book and ice cream sales.

When confronted by the school's principal, Hidalgo said he was borrowing the money so his car would not be repossessed and to pay the Internal Revenue Service back taxes he owed, prosecutors said.

On June 4, he pleaded no contest to felony embezzlement charges as part of a plea deal, prosecutors said.

As part of his sentence, Hidalgo was also ordered to pay $14,632 in restitution to the school.

The principal of the school, located at 305 Eastmoor Ave., attended the sentencing, according to the district attorney's office.

Southbury Synagogue’s President Sentenced in Embezzlement Case

Jodi Churchill, 45, of Orange, was sentenced Thursday, Dec. 19, by U.S. District Judge Robert N. Chatigny to two-and-a-half years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for embezzling more than $600,000 from a Southbury synagogue, according to Deirdre M. Daly, U.S. attorney for the District of Connecticut.

Ms. Churchill was also ordered to serve six months of home confinement and perform 120 hours of community service while on supervised release, the U.S. attorney’s statement said.

According to court documents and statements made in court, beginning in November 2010, while serving as the vice president of the Beth El Synagogue in Southbury, Ms. Churchill began embezzling funds.

In June 2011, Ms. Churchill became the president of the synagogue and used her new position to open a checking account and a money market account in the name of the synagogue. She was the only signatory on the accounts, the press release said.

Initially, Ms. Churchill opened the accounts using the synagogue’s business address in Southbury, but in 2011 she directed the bank to change the mailing address on the accounts to her residence in Orange. Thereafter, all bank statements for the accounts were mailed to Ms. Churchill’s home address.

Between June 2011 and December 2011, Ms. Churchill deposited bank checks totaling more than $300,000 into the accounts. The checks reflected the proceeds of certificates of deposit held by the synagogue that had matured at other financial institutions.

The investigation revealed that Ms. Churchill made more than 60 unauthorized ATM and over-the-counter withdrawals of synagogue funds in amounts ranging from $200 to $5,000.

Ms. Churchill used the embezzled funds to pay school-related expenses for her children, expenses for leasing a horse used by one of her children, vehicle expenses, airline tickets and hotel expenses for personal travel. She also provided stolen funds to a relative, according the U.S. attorney’s press release.

During the course of this scheme, Ms. Churchill embezzled a total of more than $661,000 in synagogue funds, the press release states.

After the embezzlement scheme was uncovered, the government seized approximately $104,000 from Ms. Churchill’s bank accounts, and seized and sold, for approximately $22,000, an automobile she had purchased with synagogue funds. The funds have been returned to the synagogue.

Judge Chatigny ordered Ms. Churchill to pay restitution in the amount of $531,985 to the synagogue and its insurer.

On May 31, Ms. Churchill waived her right to indictment and pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud.

This matter was investigated by the U.S. Secret Service and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher W. Schmeisser.

Hatfield Woman, Ex-Church Treasurer, Accused of Embezzlement Waives Hearing, Felony Charge Dropped

The former treasurer of Emmanuel Evangelical Congregational Church in Hatfield Borough accused of stealing $81,453 from its funds—and allegedly leaving $36.11 in its account—waived her preliminary hearing in Souderton District Court Monday, according to court records.
In exchange for the waiver, the prosecution dropped a felony receiving stolen property charge against Stephanie Anne Kligge, 35, of the 400 block of South Main Street, according to court records.
Kligge faces charges of felony theft by deception, felony theft by unlawful taking, felony theft by failing to make required deposits of funds and misdemeanor misapplication of entrusted property, according to court records.
Kligge is free on $25,000 cash bail.
A formal arraignment in Montgomery County court is set for Feb. 2.
Kligge was treasurer from July 2012 through June 30, 2013.
Kligge, as treasurer, allegedly made 64 bank withdrawals from the church's account totaling $61,453.20 for her own personal use and without authorization, police said.
Kligge then allegedly stole $20,000 from the church's bank account to buy gift cards that she kept for her own personal use rather than provide them to the church's fundraising program, Ferman said.
In order to conceal her alleged crimes, Kligge allegedly provided the church with false monthly treasurer reports that showed balances of more than $100,000, Ferman said. In reality, Kligge allegedly drained the account, leaving $36.11.
According to The Reporter, an investigation against Kligge began when, in September, the president of the church board went to Hatfield police to report money was missing from the savings account.
This case will be prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Jeremy Abidiwan-Lupo.

A Hatfield woman allegedly stole more than $81,000 from the local church where she once worked as treasurer, according to authorities.

Stephanie Anne Kligge, 35, of the 400 block of South Main Street, was arraigned Wednesday before District Court Judge Kenneth Deatelhauser, of Souderton, on charges of theft, receiving stolen property and misapplication of entrusted property in connection with allegedly stealing $81,453 from Emmanuel Evangelical Congregational Church, 100 S. Main St., between September 2012 and August 2013.

“She’s alleged to have committed two different types of thefts,” explained Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney Jeremy Abidiwan-Lupo, alleging Kligge stole $61,453 by making 64 unauthorized withdrawals from church bank accounts and another $20,000 by pocketing gift cards she was supposed to purchase for a church fundraising initiative. “Rather than give those gift cards to the church, the allegation is she kept those gift cards for herself and kept them for her own personal use without authorization.”

Kligge served as treasurer of the church, which is located just three blocks from her home, from July 2012 to August 2013, according to a criminal complaint filed by Hatfield Detective Thomas Starner. Kligge, when confronted by authorities, claimed she began withdrawing funds from the church in August 2012 “without authorization and used it for personal use” Starner alleged in the arrest affidavit.

“It’s an embezzlement of the church’s money and money that’s meant to be for the congregation and for non-profit programs the church runs. However, the allegation is she spent it on herself, rather than the church,” Abidiwan-Lupo alleged, maintaining Kligge’s crimes were a breach of trust.

Kligge allegedly concealed her crimes by falsifying monthly treasurer reports that indicated a balance in the church account of more than $100,000, according to court documents. In truth, authorities alleged, Kligge had drained the account of all but $36.11.

The investigation began in September after the president of the church board went to Hatfield police to report money was missing from the church’s business savings account, according to the criminal complaint.

Deatelhauser set Kligge’s bail at $25,000 cash, which Kligge was unable to immediately post. Kligge was taken to the county jail to await her Dec. 24 preliminary hearing.

Kligge’s arrest marked the second time in four months that an employee of a Montgomery County church was accused of church thefts.

In August, James Lee Moody, 47, the former bookkeeper at Victory Fellowship Church in Lower Providence, was arrested for allegedly stealing more than $156,000 from that church’s coffers between May 2011 and May 2013 while he worked at the church in the 2600 block of Audubon Road.

Moody, of the 3500 block of Woodhaven Road, Philadelphia, is being held in the county jail in lieu of $99,000 cash bail while awaiting trial.

“Unfortunately, over the last couple of years we’ve seen numerous non-profit organizations and community groups having someone internally steal money from them...and it again reminds people who volunteer their time on these boards to remain vigilant to make sure their organizations are protected from internal thefts,” Lupo said.

John Meisner, former treasurer of Easthampton High School Parent Council, accused of embezzlement

The former treasurer of the Easthampton High School Parent Council is accused of embezzling about $19,000 from that organization, including $3,600 to help buy a house.

John R. Meisner, 56, of Bernardston, has pleaded not guilty in Northampton District Court to charges of larceny over $250 by a single scheme and embezzlement by an association officer over $250.

Meisner is accused of making 35 cash withdrawals totaling $19,181.26 from the council’s bank account during the six years he was treasurer.

According to court files, Meisner was the treasurer and lone signatory on the council’s account from October 2006 until October 2012 when suspicious transactions prompted the council to add a second signatory to help review the account.

The council is a volunteer organization that produces the annual high school musical, the proceeds of which fund Easthampton High School graduation night and a pair of scholarships, according to court records.
According to court files, suspicion surrounding the account surfaced in January 2012 when Meisner allegedly delayed reimbursing council members for legitimate expenses and failed to send scholarship checks to recipients in a timely manner.

One scholarship check was unable to be cashed due to insufficient funds in the council’s account, according to investigators.

Once the suspicious transactions were found, the original account — which investigators said was “essentially empty” — was closed, and a new one was opened with a new treasurer in place in October 2012, according to court records.

Meisner told police that in December 2011 he withdrew $3,600 from the council account and converted it into a bank check for a real estate agent who was assisting with the purchase of a new home, according to court records.

On Oct. 4, 2012, Meisner deposited a check for $9,000 into the council account. According to investigators, the check was deposited the day before Meisner was to meet with a council member and the Easthampton High School principal, Vito Perrone, about adding a second signatory to the account.

The $9,000 check was made payable to Meisner and drawn from the account of a family member in Colorado, according to investigators.

Meisner allegedly told investigators he had borrowed money from the council account to offset financial difficulties at home, but intended to fully pay it back.

According to court files, Meisner told police he did not believe he had withdrawn a total of $19,000 over the course of the six years, but agreed his record-keeping of the withdrawals may not have been accurate.

According to court records there were major discrepancies between the account balances Meisner was reporting to the council and what the bank records showed.

At a March 15, 2012, council meeting, Meisner reported an account balance of about $10,522, while the bank statement from a week prior showed a balance of about $1,739, according to court papers.

Similarly, at an April 12, 2012, council meeting, Meisner reported an account balance of about $9,063, while the April 8 bank statement showed a balance of about $549, according to court files.

Meisner was arraigned in August and there is a pretrial conference scheduled for Jan. 8.

Thursday, November 28, 2013


A treasurer was convicted and sentenced today for embezzling over $110,000 from church bank accounts. Fiatala Manu, 47, Lake Elsinore, pleaded guilty to one felony count each of embezzlement by fiduciary of trust, money laundering, falsifying records, and sentencing enhancements for property loss over $65,000. He was sentenced to one year in jail, two years of mandatory supervision, and was ordered to pay over $113,000 in restitution.

Between October 2011 and August 2012, Manu was a member of the First Samoan Christian Congregational Church in Santa Ana and served as an interim treasurer. The defendant was responsible for handling the church’s financial accounts, which included paying the bills.

Manu embezzled approximately $113,000 from the church by making unauthorized cash withdrawals, writing checks payable to himself, and transferring funds from the church bank accounts into his personal bank account. The defendant embezzled $96,000 solely from a deposit account set aside to build a new church. Manu also laundered the embezzled funds deposited into his personal bank account through cash withdrawal transactions and purchases made at an Indian gaming casino.

The defendant attended monthly church meetings and reported false financial reports, which included reporting false balances and funds in the church bank accounts.

In July 2012, an assistant treasurer was assigned to monitor various church accounts and learned that the account for the church building fund was closed in April 2012 with a zero balance. The discrepancy in funds was reported to the Santa Ana Police Department, who investigated this case and arrested the defendant on July 29, 2013.

Deputy District Attorney Chuck Lawhorn of the White Collar Crime Team prosecuted this case.

Osage County DA disputes tribal immunity claim by ex-football coach in embezzlement case in Oklahoma

The Native American pedigree of former football coach Scotty Ray Gilkey was questioned earlier this week at a district court hearing in which Gilkey seeks dismissal of embezzlement charges filed against him and his wife over fundraising efforts during his 2012 tenure as Pawhuska High School head coach.

The ex-coach testified Tuesday in connection with a defense motion that asks for the charges to be dropped due to lack of jurisdiction by Osage County courts. From the witness stand, Gilkey produced a Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood (CDIB) which indicates that he is one-quarter Pawnee Indian.

In addition to disputing the facts of the alleged crimes, the defense contends that the State of Oklahoma court system does not have jurisdiction in the case because the charges involve incidents that occurred on Indian land. Generally, crimes committed by an Indian on restricted Indian property are subject to federal prosecution.

District Attorney Rex Duncan disputed the Indian immunity claim made by Gilkey. Duncan said such a claim is only valid for actual Indian citizens and certified tribal members. The district attorney argued that the CDIB is not sufficient to prove tribal citizenship, which he said is required to support Gilkey’s motion.

“Citizenship is a political matter within the different tribal communities,” said Duncan, adding: “Mr. Gilkey is not and was not a member of an Indian tribe.”

The district attorney said Gilkey does not have a tribal membership number. He pointed out that the number on the Gilkey CDIB actually is a (Dawes) Roll number of a deceased Pawnee citizen who was a grandfather of the former football coach.

“It is simply a tracking number that is used in probate (court) to track assets of tribal members,” said Duncan.

Testimony by Gilkey indicated that his mother is one-half Pawnee and that he receives quarterly payments from the tribe and owns tribal property as a descendant of his Pawnee grandfather. He said he recently has resumed a tribal-membership application process that he had begun several years previously.

“I didn’t just become a Pawnee,” Gilkey said following the hearing. “I’ve been Pawnee my whole life.”

Gilkey also testified that he was not personally involved with operating a fireworks stand involved in the felony embezzlement case against him. The 38-year-old PHS graduate is accused of fraudulently appropriating proceeds from the fireworks stand in the summer of 2012. Gilkey said the stand was run by his wife and other family members.

The owner of the property on which fireworks stand was located, Paul Mays, testified at the hearing that the fireworks stand was operated by Jennifer Gilkey and her daughter. When questioned by the DA, Mays said he was unaware that the fireworks were being sold to raise funds for school sports programs.

Defense attorney Aletia Timmons attempted to introduce evidence that revenue from the fireworks stand did not even belong to the Pawhuska Public Schools, as claimed in the charges.

“There is no evidence in this case that there is a victim at all, let alone a non-Indian victim on Indian land,” Timmons said.

Gilkey served as PHS head coach for less than six months before being suspended last November by Pawhuska Schools Superintendent Dr. Landon Berry. His suspension came four days before the Huskies’ lost a first-round game in the state football playoffs. Gilkey’s coaching contract expired at the end of the 2012-13 school year.

At the request of the school district’s, an investigation of school finances was conducted late last year by the Osage County Sheriff’s Office. Embezzlement charges were filed against the Gilkeys on May 29.

A felony charge alleges the coach took more than $2,500 “which were proceeds from the Pawhuska Football Firework Stand, belonging to Pawhuska Public Schools and which had been entrusted to (him) for the benefit of Pawhuska Public Schools.”

Gilkey and his wife also are charged with seven counts of embezzlement involving personal checks from Pawhuska school patrons. The payments supposedly were intended for the school district but allegedly were deposited in personal accounts of the Gilkeys.

Osage County Special District Judge Stuart Tate set a Dec. 6 deadline for Timmons to provide a legal brief to support the motion for dismissal. Tate asked Duncan to respond to the defense filing by Jan. 3, 2014. The judge scheduled resumption of the motion hearing at 9 a.m. on Jan. 17.

Since his arrests in August, Gilkey has been free on appearance bonds totalling $4,000. Jennifer Gilkey was released on a $1,500 bond for the misdemeanor charge.

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Former youth minister pleads guilty in extortion-linked embezzlement in Virginia

A former youth minister who embezzled more than $87,000 from his Mechanicsville church to pay off a woman’s blackmail scheme pleaded guilty Monday in Hanover County Circuit Court.
Chris Allen Phillips, 51, who no longer holds a position at Mechanicsville Advent Christian Church, will be sentenced Feb. 24 and faces up to 20 years in prison. He remains free on bond.
Phillips paid the money to Tonya Farnsworth, 34, a Henrico County woman who offered her services online and who threatened to reveal a one-time sexual relationship with Phillips if he didn’t meet her demands for money.
In the weeks after the brief tryst at Farnsworth’s Henrico residence Dec. 22 last year, the church and its day care facility lost more than $87,000, according to Senior Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Angela O’Connor. Phillips also used about $75,000 of his own family’s money to make payments to Farnsworth.
At one point, O’Connor said, Phillips took control of the church’s day care checkbook.
On almost a daily basis, Phillips placed tens of thousands of dollars into a black Lincoln Navigator parked near Farnsworth’s home on West End Drive in Henrico after Farnsworth threatened to make public pictures she claimed to have, O’Connor said in court.
Phillips located Farnsworth, who went by Tammy, online and paid $200 for sexual favors at her home, only to have Farnsworth reach him days later to falsely accuse him of stealing some $500 from the home.
When Phillips denied taking money, Farnsworth threatened to publish pictures of him with her if he didn’t pay her.
Farnsworth pleaded guilty to extortion in October and is awaiting sentencing. She could get up to 10 years in prison.
Investigators recovered hundreds of pages of texts from Farnsworth’s cellphone, and defense lawyer Craig Cooley said yesterday that Farnsworth allegedly had at least two other victims.

Former Colton youth baseball league president jailed in embezzlement case in Pennsylvania

 Colton police on Monday arrested the former president of the Colton Pony Baseball League on suspicion of embezzling from the league’s funds.

Police said Matthew James Hernandez, 40, of Colton stole more than $900 while he was president of the league from November 2012 to February 2013.

Police had been investigating unauthorized withdrawals made from the league’s account and conducted an audit. When Hernandez came to the Colton Police Department for questioning on Monday, he was taken into custody and booked into West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga on suspicion of embezzlement and grand theft.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Church member accused of embezzlement in Carter County in Tennessee

A long-time church member in Carter County has been accused of stealing more than $100,000 from his church.

Carter County Sheriff Chris Mathes said Tuesday evening that Silas Edward Sams was charged with theft over $60,000.

He was indicted this past week by a Carter County grand jury in connection with theft from Beck Mountain Baptist Church.

Members of the church approached the sheriff’s office about the missing money. Investigators looked back several years and then brought their findings to the grand jury.

Sams has since bonded out of the Carter County Jail.

Former Tulsa Public Schools athletic director sentenced to 7 months for embezzlement

A former Tulsa Public School Athletic Director who pleaded guilty to embezzlement was sentenced to seven months in prison.

Stephanie Springs attorney had asked for her to be sentenced to probation based on her personal history and positive contributions to the community.

In the end, the judge said Spring stole the money from a district and students that needed it the most.
Stephanie Spring hurried out of U.S. District Court on Wednesday after a judge handed down his sentence.

The former TPS Athlethic Director pleaded guilty to a federal embezzlement charge earlier this year.

Spring is accused of pocketing more than 180 checks over a seven year period, totaling to over $92,000, money she got by renting out the district's athletic facilities.

“We're not pleased with the idea that we've had to go through this. This has been a heart wrenching event for everyone here at TPS. It's just gut wrenching to see people with so much potential who have done so much for the school make these kinds of mistakes,” said Chief Gary Rudick with the Tulsa Public School police department.

The judge denied Spring's request for probation and instead gave her a sentence of 7 months in federal prison and three years of supervised release.

Former secretary pleads guilty to embezzling activity fees from 2 Anchorage high schools

A former school secretary who stole more than $135,000 in East High School students' activity fees over several years has admitted to the theft, the largest in Anchorage School District history.

Gayle White, 46, entered a plea deal with state prosecutors. On Monday she pleaded guilty to second-degree theft, reduced from the original charges of first-degree theft and scheme to defraud.

White, a Wasilla resident, was working at Chugiak High School when officials discovered in 2011 she had stolen about $5,000, bit by bit, from fees students paid in cash for various school activities. The school district fired her in April 2011.

While she was on probation in that case, police learned that White had stolen much more during previous employment at East High School.

Police said White had stolen about $100,500 from 2006 to 2009 from East High when the charges were first filed. The school district said it had been the largest single incidence of theft they had ever seen.

After the Monday plea hearing, Deputy District Attorney Clint Campion said the total amount was more than $135,000, which White must pay back as restitution. White has made a $5,000 "down payment" and was ordered to pay $1,000 per month, Campion said.

White was sentenced to serve three months behind bars and may be eligible to serve that time on electronic ankle monitor, Campion said.

"She can't pay restitution if she's in jail," he said.

Former Glendora Unified School District employee sentenced for embezzlement in California

 A longtime employee with Glendora Unified School District will spend six months and four days in county jail, 270 days in house arrest and must pay back $430,682 for embezzling district funds, officials said Thursday,

Jane Robison, public information officer for the District Attorney’s Office, said Cynthia Schlig, 57, of Upland pleaded no contest Wednesday to one count of forgery and one count of embezzlement by a public officer.

In addition to jail time and house arrest, she said Schlig was also sentenced to five years probation and ordered to pay $430,682 in restitution.

“Also, the prosecutor seized the defendant’s home, and it’s in escrow. The proceeds - between $85,000 to $90,000 - will go to the school district as part of the restitution,” Robison said.

Schlig worked 35 years at Glendora Unified and was a former accounting specialist in the finance department. She was originally charged with two counts of forgery, one count of embezzlement and two counts of misappropriation.

Robison said the other counts were dismissed at Wednesday’s sentencing which was held at Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center in Los Angeles.

She said Schlig embezzled money from July 7, 2007 to Jan. 6, 2012. Glendora Police said Schlig took more than $350,000 from the district.

According to Robison, the restitution amount includes the funds taken plus the cost of investigating the case.

It’s not clear what the ex-accounting specialist did with the stolen money. The detective who investigated couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.

Schlig was arrested Aug. 20 after a 19-month investigation by officials from Glendora Unified, Glendora police and the District Attorney’s Public Integrity Unit.

Police said forensic audits of Schlig’s work from the previous five years revealed an elaborate scheme of masking incoming cash with check deposits and altering financial documents, among other tactics.

The district’s business office administration discovered the irregularities and made the initial report of the missing funds in January 2012, Superintendent Robert Voors said in an earlier interview with the paper.

District officials said Schlig resigned when the irregularities were found.

Superintendent Speaks About Henry County School Embezzlement in Virginia

-Investigators are releasing more information about the former Henry County Public School employee indicted for embezzling thousands of dollars from an elementary school.

Investigators say Tammie Terrell Millner, 41, was a bookkeeper at Axton Elementary when the embezzlement happened.

Henry County School officials say Millner worked for them for 11 years. But she resigned in April of this year. Now, they are just hoping they will be able to recover the money.

An internal audit at Henry County Public Schools exposed a huge loss, totaling more than $14,000.
"The school noticed it was an internal audit and notified us of that," said Eric Winn from theHenry County Sheriff's Office.

Investigators now say Millner embezzled that sum while working as bookkeeper at Axton Elementary School.

"It's a violation of trust...They have a person they trusted to handle this job and they were in essence taking money from the school," said Winn.

Winn says their investigation found that Millner was embezzling the money from June 2011 to April 2013. While they do not see this crime very often, they take it very seriously and so do school officials.

"There's always potential for fraud but the way that you fight against those kind of things is you work on strengthening your internal controls," said Jared Cotton, the superintendent of Henry Co. Public Schools.

Cotton says they already have training for employees that work with money. And they perform 'surprise' audits. He says they now plan to provide additional training including scenario-based exercises to prevent this type of crime from happening again.

While Cotton says they have not finished assessing all of the impact of this loss, he assures parents that it should not hurt the students at Axton Elementary.

"We certainly are using available funding to make sure that our students at that particular school have all their educational needs met," said Cotton.

Millner is facing three counts of felony embezzlement. She could face up to 60 years behind bars.

Former Waverly Junior Football treasurer jailed for embezzlement in Michigan

A former volunteer treasurer for the Waverly Junior Football program was sentenced Thursday to 10 months in jail and 5 years probation for embezzling more than $19,000 from the program.

Celeste Foster, 40, will be required to pay $19,070 in restitution to the program. She was taken into custody after sentencing in Eaton County Circuit Court.

Vince Green, Foster’s attorney, argued that there was only one victim in this case, the football program itself, and not all the parents and children involved in it. The judge did not agree.

“You were placed in a position of trust,” Judge Janice Cunningham said to Foster. “Our whole community was a victim in every sense of the word.”

Foster, who has no criminal history, tearfully apologized to the court and to the program, explaining that her bad decisions were the result of a new relationship with a con artist who abused her and introduced her to illegal drugs. She said she has been clean since the end of last year.

“I do know what I did was wrong,” she said. “I know I caused a lot of heartbreak to the people (in the program) and the children they love.”

Elizabeth Stanton, the organization’s previous treasurer, spoke on behalf of the group. She told Cunningham that her life was turned upside down because her name remained on the account, and she had to prove that she herself had not embezzled, particularly when Foster refused to reveal any information about where the funds had gone.

“I was accused of taking the money and had to prove my innocence,” Stanton said. “We stood there for months on end, over a year and a half, with this baggage. It left us with no money, kids upset, parents upset and a program that was virtually almost gone.”

Green said he plans to seek a restitution hearing because he believes the amount should be much lower.

Foster pleaded guilty in September to embezzling between $1,000 and $20,000 from a charitable organization.

The program’s president, Jim Kilfoyle, says the organization has taken steps to ensure a similar situation never happens again. All records are available to parents, checks must be countersigned by two board members, and all expenses are brought before the board.

“Every dollar spent is basically scrutinized by the entire board,” Kilfoyle said after the proceedings. “This season has been an exercise in putting these goals in place. The bottom line is total transparency.”

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Poe Middle School principal arrested, charged with embezzlement in Virginia

Fairfax County Police say the principal of Poe Middle School in Annandale, Sonya Swansbrough, 46, of Woodbridge, and an administrative employee at Jeb Stuart High School, Bethany Speed, 38, of Burke, have been charged with embezzlement and money laundering.
Also charged was Brenton Rusnak, 20, of Radford, Swansbrough’s son. He is accused of receiving stolen property.
Police said they began an investigation after being contacted by FCPS in late September 2013. The allegations involved falsifying timesheets for personal financial gain.
An investigation determined that these incidents began as early as May 2010 and officials believe over $100,000 may have been embezzled.
The investigation was conducted by Financial Crimes Unit detectives and FCPS Human Resources

Authorities say the women may have cheated the school system out of more than $100,000.
Sonya Swansbrough, 46, principal of Poe Middle School Annandale, Va., and Bethany Speed, 38, an administrative employee at Jeb Stuart High School in Falls Church, were arrested and charged with embezzlement and money laundering Tuesday morning.
The women allegedly falsified timesheets for personal financial gain, beginning as early as May 2010, said Fairfax County Police.
Speed had previously worked for Swansbrough as a finance technician.
An investigation began after "internal processes brought these issues to light," wrote Assistant Superintendent Douglas Tyson in a message to Poe Middle School parents Tuesday.
Swansbrough has been temporarily relieved of her duties as the investigation continues, he said.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Woman sought in embezzlement from Claremore Boy Scouts troop in Pennsylvania

An arrest warrant has been issued for a woman who is accused of embezzling $16,607 from a Claremore Boy Scouts troop.
Rachel Lunsford, 39, was charged in Rogers County District Court on Thursday, records show.
The Boy Scout troop’s committee chairman contacted police about suspicious activity on the troop’s checking account in July, when he realized it been overdrawn, a police affidavit states.
The chairman “identified numerous transactions in the checking account which do not reflect the expenditures” of the troop, including 23 checks written payable to cash, five checks to Lunsford family members and five checks to utility companies, according to the document. The troop was also reportedly missing $1,860 from fundraisers, an investigator wrote.
Lunsford is described as white, 5 feet 5 inches tall and 180 pounds.
Her last name also appears on some court records as Lundsford.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Sentencing postponed in church embezzlement case in Pennsylvania

Sentencing was delayed Friday for a man charged with stealing more than $100,000 from a local Catholic parish over the course of four years.

Daniel Yasick, 38, of Heilwood, was due to appear before Indiana County Judge Thomas Bianco to be sentenced for 190 counts relating to the embezzlement of money from Resurrection Church in Clymer between 2008 and 2011.

He stole the money, police said, while working as the parish’s business manager.
Yasick pleaded guilty to one consolidated theft count graded as a third-degree felony on Aug. 2 in Indiana County Court.

According to Yasick’s attorney, Thomas G. Johnson, and Indiana County District Attorney Patrick Dougherty, the sentencing was postponed to allow for more time to determine the proper amount of restitution Yasick owed.

Yasick resigned from his position in January, right around the time the Diocese of Greensburg enlisted state police assistance in investigating discrepancies in Resurrection Church’s budget.
The diocese then commissioned a forensic audit. The results were sent to state police.
Police leveled 190 charges against Yasick, among them 182 felonies.

Charges included 50 counts each of unlawful taking, theft by deception and receiving stolen property; 24 counts of theft by failure to make required disposition of funds; eight counts of fraudulent destruction of records; six counts of forgery and one count each of tampering with records or identification and tampering or fabricating physical evidence.
A new date has not been set yet for Yasick’s sentencing.

Former PTA president charged with embezzlement in North Carolina

Authorities in Lumberton say a former president of a local elementary school PTA is facing an embezzlement charge.

The Fayetteville Observer reports that Lumberton Police Department Capt. Terry Parker said Angela Bono-Severy is charged with 39 counts each of forgery and embezzlement.

Parker said bail was set at $40,000. It is not known whether Bobn-Severy has an attorney.

The current PTA president contacted Lumberton police in September to report that association funds were missing. Police said she reported between $10,000 and $15,000 was missing from the group's coffers.

But Parker said the investigation determined more money was actually missing, although he didn't give an exact amount.

Parker said the money was taken between August 2010 and Sept. 18.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Court clears Worcester, Massachusetts schools of defaming ex-athletic director

A Worcester Superior Court jury has cleared the city of any liability for damages alleged by John J. Pepi, a former athletic director for the public schools, in a defamation suit filed four years ago.

Mr. Pepi, who was named athletic director in 2004, alleged in the civil suit that he lost the job in 2007 to Colleen O'Brien, a school department administrator he maintained was less qualified for the job, and that school officials then sought to justify the action by embarking on a campaign to defame him without ever granting him a hearing to clear his name.

He alleged the campaign included an internal investigation into false allegations of possible larceny, fraud and embezzlement on his part in connection with missing office equipment and records and misappropriation of donations, many of which were eventually accounted for.

In June 2007, Mr. Pepi was informed in a letter from Stacey DeBoise Luster, human resources manager for the school department, that he was being placed on paid administrative leave pending the investigation, which was eventually suspended. School officials said the investigation was hampered by missing records and was inconclusive.

In September 2007, former Superintendent James Caradonio formally reprimanded Mr. Pepi for insubordination and poor professional judgment for allegedly ordering football uniforms without a purchase order and for denying that he ordered towels and posters with team schedules on them and then threw them out because the schedules had changed.

Mr. Pepi, who denied any wrongdoing and noted that he was never criminally charged, was later reassigned to a lower-paying job as a physical education teacher. He charged that the allegations that had been made against him became known in the school community and elsewhere, damaging his reputation and causing him emotional and physical distress.

He continued to work as a physical education teacher until 2010, when he went out on a worker's compensation claim for what he said was job-related stress.

School officials, who denied the allegations leveled against them in the lawsuit, maintained Mr. Pepi lost the job as athletic director because of a cost-cutting reorganization that resulted in the athletic director's duties being divided up among Ms. O'Brien, who had been acting project director of safe schools and healthy students, and two other employees.

They said the investigation and reprimand were legitimate personnel actions totally unrelated to Mr. Pepi's removal from the athletic director's position.

The jury returned its verdicts in favor of the defendants in the case Friday afternoon, after a trial that lasted nearly three weeks.

After deliberating for about 7½ hours over two days, the jurors found that Mr. Caradonio, Ms. Luster, Ms. O'Brien and Sherrill McKeon, the former manager of student and staff support services for the school system, did not defame Mr. Pepi, violate his constitutional rights or wrongly interfere with his contractual or advantageous relations.

"We're pleased with the result, and we believe it to be warranted based on the facts of the case," said Sean Sweeney, the lawyer for the school district.

"Obviously, he would have wanted a favorable verdict," Mr. Pepi's lawyer, Philip N. Beauregard, said of his client. "But that didn't happen, and Mr. Pepi accepts that."

Mr. Beauregard said he and his client "drew consolation" from Ms. Luster's statement that there was "absolutely no evidence" that Mr. Pepi engaged in larceny, embezzlement or fraud, even though she and Mr.Caradonio "were unwilling to say that that's the equivalent of innocence."

"Well, the American system of justice says that's innocence," Mr. Beauregard said.

"Just because the verdict came back the way it did doesn't mean I'm not going to move on with my life," Mr. Pepi said. "People who really know me know my reputation to be excellent."

Monday, November 4, 2013

Henniker, New Hampshire school PTA treasurer accused of embezzling more than $1,000

Police say the treasurer of the Henniker Community School PTA in New Hampshire has been accused of embezzling more than $1,000 from the association's bank account.
Thirty-seven-year-old Shannon Lovejoy of Henniker, a former school board member, has been charged with felony-level theft by embezzlement after police said she wrote checks from the PTA's account for her own benefit.
Police said she became treasurer of the PTA in June and gained full control of the accounts in August.
Police said another member of the PTA contacted them on Oct. 15 when they noticed some money missing from the account.
Lovejoy, who was arrested Tuesday, has declined to comment. She was released on $50,000 personal recognizance bail and is scheduled to be arraigned on Dec. 3.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Ivy Academia founders sentenced in fraud case in California

The founders of Ivy Academia Charter School were sentenced Friday morning in a downtown courtroom for their roles in an embezzlement scam that netted more than $200,000 in public funding.

Yevgeny “Eugene” Selivanov, 41, was sentenced to nearly five years in state prison, while his wife, Tatyana Berkovich, 36, was sentenced to serve 45 days in county jail, perform 320 hours of community service and five years of probation.

Selivanov, the school’s former executive director, was found guilty in April of 18 counts of embezzlement by a public officer, money laundering and tax fraud. Berkovich, the former school principal and later president, was found guilty of one count of embezzlement relating to personal charges on a school American Express card.

Ivy Academia has three campuses in the San Fernando Valley, in Winnetka, West Hills and Woodland Hills. The school was known for its high test scores and rigorous curriculum.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Stephen Marcus had harsh words for both defendants, but said he found Selivanov, who has a financial industry background and previously worked at Goldman Sachs, was the primary architect of what he called a “sophisticated” scam.

“He took advantage of these positions of trust,” Marcus said. “He created sham financial transactions between Ivy (Academia) and his various companies. Essentially, he’s using this school as an ATM machine.”

According to testimony during the trial, the couple used school credit cards to purchase personal items, including diapers, a “tax secrets” seminar and meals at local restaurants. They also began charging the school $32,000 a month in rent in 2008, up from $18,390 a month, because they owned the land on which the schools sit through another entity, and attempted to collect three year’s worth of past rent at the increased rate. Additionally, a plan to take over a loan held by the school resulted in an illegal transfer of nearly half a million dollars in school assets to another organization controlled by the couple, according to prosecutors.

The rent agreement and the loan arrangement were rubber stamped by a board of directors that was stacked with friends of the couple, the judge said.

“They have cast a dark shadow over charter schools,” Marcus said.

Prosecutors said they hope the convictions will be noticed in the charter school community, and bring a new set of accountability to the management of those schools.

“These were serious charges and we hope the result will be greater responsibility by the operators of charter schools to protect public funds,” said Deputy District Attorney Dana Aratani

The case attracted the attention of the California Charter Schools Association, which filed a brief in support of the couple Thursday.

“This unprecedented prosecution has sent shock waves throughout the charter school community and has stifled charter school operational freedoms. With no guidelines or set of rules on what is an “allowed” or “disallowed” expenditure, no recognition of the rules and regulations applicable to nonprofit corporations, and district attorneys and courts second guessing nonprofit corporate board’s spending decisions years after the fact, charter schools are now forced to forgo their operational flexibility and make only the basic expenditures (e.g., books, salaries etc.) out of fear of future prosecution,” the brief argued.

Berkovich and Selivanov were placed on paid administrative leave in 2010 and voluntarily resigned in 2011. The schools have continued to operate.

Despite the convictions, the court was crowded with supporters of the couple, who called them excellent educators and education supporters. Several spoke to the judge before the sentence, asking for leniency for the pair.

James Thomas, whose son attended Ivy Academia, told the judge he has since transferred his son to another school because the quality of education has declined since they resigned.

“In spite of whatever was put forward, we know that their priority was top-notch education,” he said.

Others spoke of how the couple poured in their own money in the early years just to make sure employees were getting paid and deferring their own salary. The judge said he had received dozens of letters of support.

The observers in the courtroom gallery burst into applause when the judge said he was granting requests for Berkovitch to avoid prison time.

The judge did grant a motion for a new trial on several counts involving incorrect jury instructions. Prosecutors said they are considering their options for refiling those charges, but have not yet decided.

Selivanov was taken into custody at the end of the hearing, and Berkovich was ordered to surrender for her 45 days of jail time within the next four months.

Their lawyers said they will appeal both the verdicts and the sentencing, and repeatedly said the accounting anomalies were mistakes and not intentional, and reflected the difference between charter schools — which are supposed to operate with more freedom that traditional public schools.

Berkovitch and Selivanov will return to court Nov. 15 for a restitution hearing.

NORCO, California: Booster club’s ex-treasurer charged with embezzlement

The former treasurer of the Norco High School Band Booster Club has been accused of stealing $23,000.

Katherine Aileen Chuck, 52, transferred money from the booster club bank account into her own account and used the club’s ATM card to make unauthorized withdrawals, including two at a hotel-casino, according to a declaration written to obtain an arrest warrant.

Chuck was charged with embezzlement and grand theft, according to the complaint filed Sept. 26 in Superior Court by the RiversideCounty district attorney’s office.

Chuck said in a phone interview Thursday, Oct. 3, that she is innocent.

“It’s false charges,” she said.

Chuck added that documents that could establish her innocence were lost in a fire.

She is due to enter a plea in Superior Court in Riverside on Oct. 21.

Chuck was treasurer from July 1, 2011, to Dec. 10, 2012, according to the affidavit written by Riverside County Sheriff’s Detective Angela Carranza.

In February 2013, Billie Jean Walker, the club’s president, provided investigators with documents that showed $43,700 in questionable withdrawals from the club’s account at Altura Credit Union. All of these withdrawals, Walker told Carranza, occurred while Chuck was treasurer, the detective wrote.

Bank statements showed transfers from the club’s account to Chuck’s account that also was at Altura, Carranza wrote. Also, Walker said, there were debit card transactions and ATM withdrawals from the club account that were not related to club activities.

Walker further told Carranza that Chuck was provided signature cards and other identifying information for three board members whose names were supposed to be placed on the club account. But Walker learned that only Chuck’s name was placed on the account, Carranza wrote.

An audit by an accounting company showed a possible misappropriation of band money between $28,317 and $45,068 while Chuck was treasurer, Carranza wrote. The audit further said there were $6,749 in questionable ATM withdrawals during that period, including two on Sept. 15, 2012, at the Tropicana Resort and Casino in Laughlin, Nev.

The audit included a photo from Chuck’s Facebook page showing Chuck and husband Michael posing in front of a sign that said “Welcome to Laughlin” on Sept. 14.

When Carranza interviewed Chuck on Aug. 15, 2013, Chuck admitted to using band money for her own use when she needed money and said she may have deposited money from fundraisers in her own account, the affidavit said.

Chuck also said she used band account money to purchase gift cards for her own use during a band fundraiser, Carranza wrote. Chuck told the detective that she used the band account to buy items for herself in order to hide the purchases from her husband.

“Katherine estimates she owes (the club) more than $8,000 for the personal use of their funds,” Carranza wrote.

Chuck’s case is at least the second recent criminal investigation involving a band booster club treasurer. On June 28, former Vista Murrieta High band boosters’ ex-treasurer Paul Takuya Nogaki, 55, pleaded guilty to grand theft and falsifying records.

He admitted to stealing more than $212,000 in club funds and has begun repaying the money.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Cheerleading Coach Embezzlement case moved to December

The embezzlement trial for former cheerleading coach Angelia Paige Harrell is being postponed once again.

Harrell’s jury trial was supposed to be held Oct. 21, but online court records now show the case to be set for Friday, Dec. 6. This is the fourth continuance for the case.

Harrell is alleged to have diverted funds from the Pulaski County High School cheerleading program for her personal use between March 2010 and October 2011. She was head coach of the varsity squad and a guidance counselor at that time.

According to records on file in Pulaski County Circuit Court, defense attorney James C. Turk Jr. requested the first continuance and the other two appear to have been joint requests of the defense and special prosecutor Erin DeHart, Bland County’s commonwealth’s attorney. No reason for the continuances is stated in any of the petitions.

Harrell was indicted in September 2012.

Valley Charter Operators, Guilty of Fraud, Seeking New Trial in California

Eugene Selivanov and his wife, Tatyana Berkovich, will be back in an Los Angeles County Superior Court tomorrow, asking the judge to grant them a new trial in a case that the California Charter Schools Association says affects other charters within the LA Unified school district.

The two were found guilty in April of misappropriating more than $200,000 in public funds, embezzlement and other charges when they operated the independent charter, Ivy Academia, in West Hills. They resigned in 2010 after their arrest.

A judge will decide either to grant them a new trial or sentence them to prison. Their motions for a new trial are here and here.

Lawyers for Selivanov and Berkovich said the couple were convicted on laws that should not have applied to them and incorrect instructions given to the jury. As a result, said Ricardo Soto, a lawyer for the charter school association, which filed a brief in support of them, other charter operators have to reexamine how they conduct their own operations.

“We believe this case has a chilling effect on the autonomy and flexibility that charter schools received under the conditions they are allowed to operate,” Soto told LA School Report. “These practices are not unusual, but they will have an effect if the case is not reconsidered.”

Soto described the practices as including money spent on gift cards, meals, flowers and other items as compensation and incentives for employees, which he called a  “common practice in business.”

The couple is currently free on bail, and Soto said they are likely to appeal if the judge refuses to grant a new trial. The question then, Soto said, is whether they remain free pending their appeal.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Retired school bookkeeper faces embezzlement charges in Virginia

A former employee of the Tazewell County School System could spend the rest of her life in prison after being charged with 15 counts of embezzlement.
Tazewell County Commonwealth’s Attorney Dennis Lee said Willie Kathy Hicks, 53, also known as Kathy Keene, 53, of North Tazewell was indicted Oct. 2 on 15 counts of embezzlement by a public officer and one count of money laundering.

Lee said Hicks was an employee of the Tazewell County School System and was at Tazewell Middle School as secretary and bookkeeper at the time the investigation was started.  Hicks retired from the school system earlier this year.
Lee said School Board Attorney Allen McGraw contacted his office May 19 and told them they believed money had been taken from Tazewell Middle School.  Lee asked the Virginia State Police and Special Agent Joshua Stitt was assigned to the case.
Lee said Stitt, who specializes in accounting crimes subpoenaed bank records back to 2006 and estimated Hicks had allegedly taken over $300,000 from the school system.
A press release from the state police said Hicks took money from the school and school related events and deposited them in her personal account.  Lee said the Commonwealth had originally planned to indict Hicks during the Sept. 10 term of grand jury.
He said Agent Stitt’s wife had a baby during the time leading up to the grand jury and he took time off to be with her. That and delays in receiving some reports led to the information needed to present an indictment arriving one day late.
Lee said the circuit court anticipated this case and some others and did not release the grand jury. They were called back Oct. 2 and presented the case against Hicks and a half dozen other cases.
Hicks was arrested and taken before a magistrate and released on bond.   She will be arraigned and have a trial date scheduled. The release from the state police said the investigation is on-going.
Dr. Michaelene Meyer, superintendent of schools in Tazewell County issued a written statement and said the system would have no further comment. The school board held a called meeting Oct. 3 to discuss personnel and legal matters but took no action and released no statements.
"Upon notification of the potential irregularities in Tazewell Middle School’s accounting for school activity funds, and suspected missing monies, Dr. Brenda Lawson notified members of the Tazewell County School Board.  The School Board took immediate action in this matter by informing and turning over the investigation to appropriate authorities.  At this time, the division has no further comment to make regarding this matter,' the statement said.
 Lee said embezzlement carries up to 20 years for each count and money laundering carries up to 40.

Former Kingwood Christian School manager gets probation in embezzlement in Alabama

A Shelby County judge this morning sentenced a Bessemer woman to a suspended jail term and placed her on probation for a charge accusing her of embezzling more than $63,000 from Kingwood Christian School in Alabaster.

Stacie S. Hollon, 43, pleaded guilty to the charge of first-degree theft of property during her appearance in Shelby County Circuit Court in Columbiana. Judge Dan Reeves sentenced her to three years of jail, but suspended the sentence and placed her on five years of probation.

Hollon also must pay $1,000 a month restitution to Kingwood Christian School for 36 months.

A grand jury indicted Hollon in January on a charge each of first-degree receiving stolen property and first-degree theft of property.

Hollon, formerly of Helena, was a financial manager at the school. Embezzlement charges arose after she was arrested for driving under the influence and receiving stolen property on May 31, 2011.

Her arrest warrant filed in court revealed that she had a bank bag belonging to Kingwood Christian School that contained $186 in cash and almost $3,450 in checks at the time. Court documents also stated that she took $63,452 belonging to Kingwood Christian School between Sept. 15, 2008, and May 31, 2011.

The theft of property charge to which she pleaded guilty this morning accused her of obtaining cash, checks, credit cards charges and ATM withdrawals totaling $63,452 from Kingwood Christian School between 2008 and 2011, according to the indictment.

Defense attorney John Medaris of Pelham told Reeves this morning that she diverted money belonging to the school "for her personal use."

The other charge in the indictment accused her of intentionally receiving $4,627 belonging to the school, according to the indictment. The charge claimed that she took the money "knowing that it was stolen or having reasonable grounds to believe it had been stolen and not having the intent to restore it to its owner."

The school, under Kingwood Assembly of God Inc., filed a lawsuit March 13 along with Cincinnati Insurance Company against Hollon and other unnamed individuals connected to theft from the institution. The case in Shelby County has a Nov. 25 non-jury trial date scheduled.

The church claims a loss of at least $117,032 due to the actions of Hollon and any others who may have participated in the theft, according to the lawsuit, which claims the embezzlement happened as early as June 2005.

Minister arrested on embezzlement charges in Idaho

A woman from Oklahoma, who recently moved to Idaho to start a pilot Bible college, was arrested Wednesday on charges of embezzlement out of Tulsa County, Oklahoma.
Melody Miles was arrested at Valley Church in Caldwell following a healing meeting where she was a guest speaker.
A tip from a KTVB viewer led to her arrest. The tip claimed that Miles was wanted in Oklahoma. KTVB independently verified the claims and discovered that Miles had warrants out for her arrest and that she and her husband Ken were in the middle of a felony embezzlement case.
We learned that Miles had two healing meetings scheduled for Wednesday, one at 10:30 a.m. at Valley Church in Caldwell and another at 7 p.m. at Life Church in Meridian.
KTVB involved police because of the possibility of Miles receiving donations without people knowing about the current charges against her.
A KTVB crew met police officers at Valley Church where they waited for Miles to finish speaking at the healing meeting she led.
When she was finished Miles and her husband Ken came out to officers who placed handcuffs on her and arrested her for the outstanding warrants.
After the arrest we spoke to lead Pastor Lynn Hardy who says Melody Miles and her husband Ken were referred to them from a church in Boise.
Hardy was surprised to see police show up to his church.
"When I was told they were here to arrest the speaker I was just stunned," said Hardy. "I was shocked. I've never had anything like that happen here before."

Hardy says he had no idea about Miles' past, that she and her husband Ken are charged with three counts of embezzlement.
Court documents allege that between February 2008 and October 2010 the Miles were doing business as Barrington Design and Remodel Inc.
The documents outline four instances where the Miles took money and agreed to kitchen remodels and home repair, but never began work, and in most cases did not purchase any materials.
They received over $10,000 from four families and are accused of not making any or complete restitution.
Ken Miles was arrested on a warrant related to the charges in May, but Melody wasn't, leaving her warrant outstanding until Wednesday's arrest.
Hardy says neither his church, nor anyone from his congregation, gave the Miles any money.
"It's something that we absolutely have to protect our congregation and then this state and our area if those charges are indeed true, then we certainly wouldn't want to be funding their what appears to be their ministry," said Hardy.
KTVB made a lot of phone calls but have not been able to confirm whether other churches or people in Idaho gave the Miles or Miles Global Ministries any money.
Officers arrested Miles around noon and booked her into the Canyon County Jail where she can either bond out or await extradition to Oklahoma.
Valley Church in Caldwell isn't the only church the Miles have traveled to to share their message. They've spoken to a church in Boise and to Life Church in Meridian several times. We're not sure if any of those churches or its members gave any money to the Miles or Miles Global Ministries.