Thursday, January 31, 2013

School embezzler sentenced to prison time in North Carolina

Susan Lynette Parker, 46, was sentenced to six to eight months in prison.
Parker embezzled about $6,000 from Union County Public Schools and about $23,000 from Centerview Baptist Church in Marshville.
She was initially charged and arrested in both cases, Detective Andrew Mullis with the Union County Sheriff Department said.
"It was reported to us by the school system," Mullis said.
Though she was charged with both cases of embezzlement, the trial was for embezzlement from the school system, Mullis said.
Parker took a deferred prosecution plea with regard to the church. Part of the agreement was that she would not serve any jail time and would pay the church back, Mullis said.
Parker worked for Union County Public Schools from January 2007 until September 2010, Community Relations and Communications Liaison Rob Jackson said.
She served as a secretary in the elementary education department and later as a secretary in the exceptional children department.
"Essentially, an employee going through past records noticed some discrepancies," Jackson said. "That was reported to her supervisor who then reported it to law enforcement."
The discrepancies were reported to law enforcement when they were discovered in 2011.

Indiana woman embezzled $200K from church while working as its accountant

 A central Indiana woman faces federal charges alleging that she embezzled nearly $200,000 from a church while working as its accountant and used the money for vacations, clothing and other personal indulgences.
Angela Renee Linder, 42, is charged with wire fraud, a federal offense that carries a maximum 20-year prison term and $250,000 fine. She was scheduled to appear Wednesday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis for an initial hearing.
The Star Press reports that Linder worked as an accounting administrator for Union Chapel United Methodist Church from 2001 to 2010. Her duties included handling the Muncie church's payroll and its credit card accounts.
Federal prosecutors said that Linder used her access to the church's finances to bilk it out of nearly $200,000 and used the money for vacations to Chicago and Gatlinburg, Tennessee, to buy clothing, pay for meals and finance home improvements.
Court records indicate Linder and her attorney, Mark McKinney, have negotiated a plea agreement with federal prosecutors.
U.S Attorney Joe Hogsett says Linder will plead guilty at a May 23 hearing.
In her proposed plea agreement, Linder is said to have "demonstrated a recognition and affirmative acceptance of personal responsibility for her criminal conduct," according to court documents. The paperwork is signed by Linder, McKinney and U.S. Attorney Gayle L. Helart.
She allegedly used the church's credit cards and wrote fraudulent checks drawn on church accounts to pay for numerous personal expenses.
Linder also is accused of stealing about $2,500 from the church to set up a fund "purportedly for the purpose of assisting children whose families were victims of fire-related disasters."
Gregg Parris, senior pastor at Union Chapel, released a statement Tuesday saying his congregation will weather the financial scandal but that the Linder case made them feel violated.
"We were very disappointed to learn our former accountant was misappropriating church funds for personal use," Parris said. "Needless to say, when trust is violated, it does harm to everyone involved, especially in a setting where trust is so highly regarded."

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Former financial secretary charged in six-figure theft from Golden High School in Denver

A former Golden High School secretary is suspected of embezzling $156,000 from the school.

Judith Marie Eakins, 53, was arrested Tuesday by Golden police, according to a Jefferson County District Attorney's media release.

In September an internal audit at the school revealed losses in numerous accounts managed by Eakins between 2009 and 2012, according to prosecutors.

Eakins has worked at the school since 1999, working her way up to financial secretary in July 2008. She left the school in November 2012.

The audit team said that Eakins "manipulated" financial documents and there was "discrepancies in receipts indicating that cash turned in to Eakins was not deposited into the school's account.

Some of the money Eakins allegedly embezzled "came from ticket sales to school events such as prom, concerts, drama productions and homecoming events," the release said. As a school staff member, "Eakins worked the door or gate at some of these events and personally collected money for tickets sales."

Eakins is suspected of having misused the school credit card and taken property she purchased with card for her personal use, the DA's office said.

She has been charged with theft and embezzlement of public property, both felonies. She is being held on a $50,000 bond.

Troy, Michigan pastor under embezzlement investigation bought $500,000 Florida condo from church manager


The charismatic Catholic pastor removed last week from his parish in Troy amid an embezzlement investigation bought a half-million-dollar condo in Florida from his longtime church administrator, the Free Press has learned.
Adding another layer to the case that has shocked and captivated metro Detroit Catholics, the St. Thomas More administrator, Janice Verschuren, is no longer employed by the parish, according to the Archdiocese of Detroit.
The church's parish council was told on Monday about the departure of Verschuren, who has worked at the parish since 1994, archdiocese spokesman Ned McGrath said Tuesday.
In March 2005, Rev. Edward Belczak, the pastor at the church, purchased the property in Wellington, Fla., for $500,000 from Verschuren, the church's administrator and facilities manager, and her then-husband, Michael Verschuren, according to public records in Palm Beach County. In 2011, Belczak, 67, transferred the property to a trust in his name, according to documents reviewed by the Free Press.
Neither Belczak nor the Verschurens could be reached for comment Tuesday. Oakland County Circuit Court records show Janice Verschuren and Michael Verschuren were divorced in 2007. McGrath said that the archdiocese "does not oversee a priest's personal finances ... (and) does not govern what a priest purchases or is allowed to purchase, in terms of real estate."
Troy police and the archdiocese are investigating whether Belczak embezzled or mismanaged $429,000. According to the archdiocese, investigators are trying to figure out whether Belczak padded his salary, paid a ghost employee $240,000 over the last six years and mishandled collections for Mother's Day and Father's Day, among other allegations.
The Florida condo -- with four bedrooms and three bathrooms -- is part of the Palm Beach Polo & Country Club, billed on its website as "a landmark of luxury living and world-class sporting in the heart of America's equestrian capital." The property is 3,150 square feet, according to real estate websites. It was purchased by Janice and Michael Verschuren in 1988 for $450,000; the pastor took out a $400,000 mortgage on the same day he purchased it in 2005.
Today, the condo is worth about $370,000, according to the Property Appraiser's Office of Palm Beach County.
In addition to paying the mortgage, as the owner, Belczak would have to pay taxes that ranged from about $8,500 to $10,500 a year over the last six years, according to records with the Palm Beach County Constitutional Tax Collector. Last year, the tax bill for the condo was $8,460.73. Its highest rate since Belczak bought it was $10,525.46, in 2008.
A real estate transaction between a Catholic pastor and his parish manager does raises questions, experts said.
"You run into problems when you're in a business relationship with employees," said Rev. Thomas Reese, a senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University who writes about Catholic issues. "That raises all sorts of conflicts of interest and other problems. So it raises eyebrows."
It is unclear how Belczak paid for the home. In metro Detroit, priests earn about $27,500 to the mid-$30,000 range, depending on years of service.
"Father Belczak's salary was within this range and appropriate," McGrath said. He said archdiocese officials have seen the Florida property records.

Catholics shocked

Troy Police Sgt. Andy Breidenich said the investigation into the embezzlement allegations at St. Thomas More will take at least a month. "It takes time, especially fraud investigations with financial documents."
The removal of Belczak has shocked many in metro Detroit who knew him as a charismatic man who grew the parish into one of the biggest Catholic churches in Oakland County. He was pastor there for 30 years before his removal last week.
The investigation has shined a spotlight on the financial relationship between parishioners and their pastors. Given that the priest was popular, many were eager to help the church, parishioners have said.
McGrath said, "The archdiocese doesn't govern whether a parishioner can give a gift to a priest. Nor, in practicality, can it know about every gift offered to a priest.
Margie Printz, the owner of American Currency Exchange, said she has dealt with Belczak and Janice Verschuren, selling them foreign currency for their trips abroad with the St. Thomas More Travel Group.
The travel group, which organized church trips, is part of the embezzlement investigation, the archdiocese said. Investigators are looking into whether Belczak may have accepted $25,000 in residual commission checks to the travel group that should have been deposited or recorded in parish accounts.
But Printz said, "I have dealt with both Father Belczak and Janice, and cannot believe these accusations. I am in total shock -- they have both been nothing but kind, honest and professional in our dealings. I am just hoping this is some terrible mistake."

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Son of convicted Lawrence superintendent Wilfredo Laboy pleads guilty to perjury in Massachusetts

The son of a former Lawrence Public Schools superintendent convicted of embezzlement pleaded guilty today to perjuring himself in grand jury testimony.
Wilfred Laboy II, 38, of Methuen, was then sentenced to one year of probation in Lawrence Superior Court, according to prosecutors.
Wilfredo Laboy was convicted last year of five counts of embezzlement and fraud for misusing the Lawrence school district’s graphic design center to print pamphlets for his son’s pizza shop and ordering school district employees to drive his son to work.
The elder Laboy was sentenced to two years in a house of correction and three years of probation, said Carrie Kimball Monahan, spokeswoman for Essex District AttorneyJonathan Blodgett.
Monahan said that when Laboy II was called before the grand jury to testify about his father’s misappropriation of school materials he lied to protect him.
“The crime of perjury undermines our justice system,” Blodgett said. “Our recommendation for committed time was based on the facts of this case which included deliberate and repeated lying to a grand jury, which is an affront to our efforts to determine the truth.”

Former PTA president at Gautier school charged with embezzlement in Mississippi

A past president of the Parent Teacher Association at Singing River Elementary School has been arrested on a charge accusing her of embezzling thousands of dollars from the group.
Gautier police Lt. Jerry Cooksey said Sue Cunningham, 41, of Gautier, was arrested last week ona felony charge of embezzlement.
An audit of the account, which is ongoing, so far has accounted for more than $10,000 in missing PTA funds, Cooksey said. That amount could rise once the audit is completed.
Cunningham was taken into custody Jan. 23.
After her arrest, she appeared before Municipal Judge Jason Thornton. Thornton set Cunningham's bond at $5,000 and she was released from custody.
Cunningham served as PTA past president and treasurer. In addition, she'd been named parent of the year.
Felony embezzlement is punishable by up to 10 years in jail and up to $25,000 in fines.

Read more here:

Monday, January 28, 2013

Woman charged with embezzling from Winston-Salem church in North Carolina

A member of a local Catholic church is charged with stealing more than $4,000 from a church checking account.
Winston-Salem police said Rose Parks Hinson, 61, of 5313 Hunt Park Court was arrested today and charged with embezzlement.
St. Benedict the Moor Catholic Church at 1625 E. 12th St. reported the missing money Aug. 24.
Police said the money was taken over a nine-month period. Police said Hinson is a volunteer church treasurer in charge of special activity funds.
She was released under a written promise to appear in court Feb. 21.

D.C. charter school founder charged with embezzling $29,000

A co-founder and former executive director of the now-closed Nia Community Public Charter School has been charged with embezzling $29,000 from the school, according to court documents.
Between March and August 2008, then-Nia Executive Director Monique Murdock wrote five checks to her foster child, each ranging between $4,000 and $8,000, using school funds, according to the criminal filing filed this month in U.S. District Court. The checks were then deposited into a savings account that Murdock had created for the child -- who is identified in the documents only as D.N. -- and all but $100 was transferred into other accounts belonging to Murdock.
Though the comments section on one check read "Professional Development" and on another "Educational Consultant Specialist," D.N. told officials that he or she never performed either of these services, nor did the child ever receive any of the funds.
Murdock's attorney, Wanda Dixon, said she had "not been  authorized to comment" on the charges.
The charges come as charter schools take on an increasing role in the education of the District's students. Enrollment in charters has grown 60 percent since 2008, with 41 percent of the city's 76,753 public school students now attending the nontraditional campuses. The DC Public Charter School Board expects enrollment to grow by 10 percent next year as DC Public Schools plans to close 15 schools -- 13 in June and two a year later -- because of perennial underenrollment.
Nia Community Public Charter School, in Ward 7, closed in 2011 after the DC Public Charter School Board revoked its charter. The decision was the result of a combination of poor academic performance and poor financial management, but it's not clear the extent to which Murdock's alleged actions contributed to the school's closure.
The Public Charter School Board put Nia on probation in July 2010, "as it appeared to be on the verge of insolvency due to questionable use/misallocation of funds [in 2008] by a former employee," charter board Chairman Brian Jones wrote in a letter to Nia board Chairman Rev. Willie Wilson explaining the history behind the school losing its charter.
"We had financial difficulties continually after [Murdock] was no longer there," Wilson told The Washington Examiner. "If in fact it holds to be 
 Despite the probation, Nia was ultimately shuttered based on its academic failings, said Public Charter School Board spokeswoman Audrey Williams. Between 2007 and 2010, Nia students' scores in reading proficiency on the DC Comprehensive Assessment System, the District-wide standardized test, dropping from 44 percent proficient to 28 percent.
But corruption and embezzlement are not unique to charter schools.
"Corruption is corruption," said David Pickens, executive director of the nonprofit advocacy group DC School Reform Now. "It could happen in a traditional school. It could happen in a private school. It could happen in a charter school."

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Woman sentenced for stealing $86K from church in Missouri

A northwest Missouri woman is going to prison for stealing slightly more than $86,000 from a church where she worked.
Forty-nine-year-old Pamela West was the business manager at Wyatt Park Christian Church in St. Joseph. She pleaded guilty in November to the theft.
The St. Joseph News-Press reports  Buchanan County Circuit Judge Dan Kellogg sentenced West on Thursday to the maximum term of seven years in prison.
Investigators said West stole the funds over a 16-month period starting in April 2011. She earned $27,000 a year at the church and spent the embezzled money for personal expenses.

Charter school theft alleged in Albany, New York


The former chief financial officer for the Brighter Choice Foundation, which provides funding and support to 10 public charter schools in Albany, has been charged with embezzling $202,837 from the organization.
The arrest Wednesday of Ronald A. Racela marks the second time in four years that Racela has been charged with grand larceny. Two years ago, Racela admitted stealing $53,931 from KeyBank in Albany, where he was employed as a manager in the Community Development Lending Group, court records show.
M. Christian Bender, executive director of Brighter Choice Foundation, said Brighter Choice officials were not aware of Racela's criminal history when he was hired as financial director of Brighter Choice Charter Schools in June 2010. Bender said Racela described his separation from KeyBank as "tense" but did not disclose he had been arrested for embezzlement eight months before he was hired by Brighter Choice.
"I knew that it had not been a smooth separation, but obviously I had no idea that it involved criminal activity on his part," Bender said Friday.
Still, a state Education Department spokesman said the agency sent written notice of Racela's criminal history to the charter school last March, when it denied the school's request to clear Racela for employment. The spokesman said the agency had first flagged an employment clearance request for Racela that was submitted by Brighter Choice in December 2011. By that time, Racela had already been working for Brighter Choice schools for about 18 months.
The Education Department conducts criminal background checks on public and charter schools employees. The agency's records indicate the request from Brighter Choice regarding Racela was immediately placed in "a hold status based on his known criminal record."
Bender said he never received the Education Department's letter last March denying Racela's employment clearance. He suggested Racela may have intercepted the documents, which are not in his personnel file.
Racela, who is on probation for his conviction in the KeyBank case, was released following his arrest this week after posting $25,000 bail. Racela's arrest by city detectives was not announced by either Albany police or the charter schools organization.
He's charged with felony counts of falsifying business records and grand larceny. Racela, paid $120,000 a year as CFO, is accused of making false payroll entries at the Brighter Choice Foundation that enabled him to get extra payroll checks over a roughly 15-month period starting September 2011, the complaint says.
Racela, 49, of Latham, was promoted from Brighter Choice Charter Schools director of finance to chief financial officer for the Brighter Choice Foundation in 2011, according to information that Racela posted on LinkedIn, a business networking website.
Bender said a new CFO hired by the foundation last fall discovered that Racela had continued collecting paychecks from Brighter Choice schools after taking a job with the foundation. Racela was allegedly using funds from the foundation to reimburse the school for the extra income, which he then pocketed, Bender said.
Racela was fired last month after he was confronted with the payroll discrepancies, Bender said.
Racela did not respond to a request for comment. His attorney, Brian W. Devane, also declined comment.
"As soon as we found out about the misappropriation of funds, we hired an outside fraud investigator to review our current financial statements and records," Bender said. "The moment the fraud investigator confirmed our suspicion, we contacted local law enforcement and filed criminal charges against the former employee."

In a Times Union interview two years ago, Racela described the "tremendous fiscal pressure" the charter schools were enduring due to what he said was the Albany school district's failure to pay millions of dollars in mandated tuition reimbursement fees. The district is mandated to pay the charter schools more than $14,000 for each city student enrolled in a charter school.
Racela, then director of finance for the Brighter Choice Charter Schools, wrote an email to employees stating: "no 'funny business' has occurred with the school's cash" as he explained why the school had been unable to pay employee retirement benefits. The schools' financial woes came to light after an earlier, unrelated state audit indicated Brighter Choice ended the 2009-10 school year $453,745 in the red, which was worse than the previous year, when its expenses exceeded its income by $311,638.
Court records in the KeyBank case indicate Racela increased loan amounts to four KeyBank clients and pocketed the additional funds. In a statement attributed to him in court records, Racela claimed he used the money for "personal expenses" after his wife had stopped working. In Racela's statement, obtained by KeyBank officials, he indicated stealing just $20,283 from the bank. But when he pleaded guilty to in January 2011, Racela admitted stealing more than $53,000. Racela wrote in the statement that his plan was to hide the thefts from KeyBank by using a portion of an unpaid $54,000 origination fee that he said the Albany Housing Authority owed for a line of credit on a Lark Drive property.
"No record of the fee being owed existed on Key's system," his statement reads. "Therefore, I thought that I could have a portion of the $54,000 pay for the $20,283 mentioned above."
Two years ago, Racela was sentenced to five years' probation and ordered to pay $56,627 in restitution to KeyBank, as well as $375 in court fees. It's unclear if Racela paid the restitution.
Bender said the school has tightened its financial controls.
"This is a sad episode and we have been working hand in hand with law enforcement to see that this matter is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," he said.

Timeline of the case
October 2009: Ronald Racela arrested on a larceny charge from KeyBank
June 2010: Racela hired as finance director Brighter Choice Charter Schools
January 2011: Racela pleads guilty to grand larceny
August 2011: Racela named chief operating officer Brighter Choice Foundation
March 2012: State Education Department denies employment clearance for Racela
January 2013: Racela charged with stealing $202,837 from Brighter Choice Foundation


Saturday, January 26, 2013

Nancy O'Donnell sentenced for embezzling church funds in Missouri

A 53-year-old St. Peters woman was sentenced Thursday for embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars in donor funds to a St. Charles County church charity, US Attorney Richard Callahan said.
According to court documents, Nancy O'Donnell served as treasurer for the St. Vincent de Paul Society, a non-profit organization tied to St. Joseph Catholic Church in Cottleville. The charity provides personal financial assistance with furniture, food, clothing, rent, utilities and other necessities to people facing economic and other crises.
The charity receives its funds primarily through donations by St. Joseph parishioners.
As treasurer of the charity, O'Donnell was placed in charge of financial record keeping and depositing funds to the group's bank account and keeping documented paperwork on all monetary movement.
On April 27, 2006, prosecutors said Nancy O'Donnell opened a sham checking account in the name of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, using her own home address as the business address on the account. O'Donnell would take donations given to her by parishioners and deposit them into either the sham account or her personal account. She then wrote checks on both the sham and personal accounts, either to herself or made to "cash," and would then use those funds for personal expenses.
Nancy O'Donnell was sentenced to one year and one day in prison and ordered to pay $209,000 in restitution. Approximately $192,000 has already been repaid.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Father, son charged for theft from local little league in Massachusetts

A father and son appeared in court Friday facing embezzlement charges for allegedly stealing $50,000 from the West Medford Little League.
They are accused of writing checks for themselves and using an account at BJ’s Wholesale Club to buy things for themselves that had nothing to do with the children.
Stanley Komins, 78, was silent as he left court with his son, Stephen Komins, 45. Prosecutors said the case against them is strong, but complicated.
Stanley Komins was the league president and Stephen Komins was the treasurer. Both men asked for a public defender. Prosecutors said the men would steal from the concession stand and from the league finances by writing themselves checks.
The total loss to the ball club is more than $50,000.
The West Medford Little League said they first became suspicious when Stanley Komins retired in 2011 and wouldn’t hand over financial records. League officials said they performed an audit and went to police with the troubling discovery.
Neal O'Brien's Medford deli is one of the many local league sponsors. He said customers are buzzing about the scandal.
“Just a sense of disgust. It’s too bad. The children shouldn’t pay. They’re taking from their own. It’s just a terrible thing,” said O’Brien.
Helen Balzano has helped run another Medford little league and calls the case shocking.
“These are little kids that are playing baseball. We’re supposed to set the example for these kids. If we can’t set a good example for our own children, what does that say about us?” said Balzano.
On the league’s web page, the new board acknowledges the allegations and wrote, “We continue to work at being transparent with the parents of West Medford and ensuring that we create a league that the community can be proud of.”
Inside Somerville District Court, father and son issued not guilty pleas. They were released without bail, but had to hand over their passports and told they had to stay in the state.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Friends saddened at news of accusations Troy priest mishandled more than $400,000 in Michigan


Friends of a Troy priest — removed from his parish as police investigate accusations he mishandled at least $429,000 in church money — are expressing shock at the news.

The Archdiocese of Detroit reported Rev. Edward Belczak was asked Tuesday to temporarily step aside from his duties at St. Thomas More Parish on North Adams Road in Troy during the probes. The 67-year-old remains a priest but will leave parish housing.

A long-time friend of Belczak’s, who asked not to be named, said she was saddened to hear the news. Office staff said they were shocked.

“I like Father Belczak. I think he’s a great priest. It’s too bad if he did that,” said 16-year-old Will Garbinski, who is a parish member and attended catechism at St. Thomas More. The Troy teenager also received his confirmation rites there. “The whole school knows about it and a lot of people were talking about it today,” said Garbinski, a junior at Troy High School.

A reader online, Jannie5050 wrote, “I pray this is a huge misunderstanding. Father Belczak is a gifted speaker and priest, but in the end, we are all human beings and as we know, humans are known to make bad choices.”

The archdiocese reported an audit found that Belczak paid a “ghost employee” $240,000. It says the priest also took $92,000 in compensation above what he’s supposed to get under church policies.

Priests generally earn a minimal salary, said Joe Kohn, archdiocese spokesman, and are provided with housing at a rectory and transportation.

Kohn added, “We are not using the word embezzlement.”  

Belczak cannot function as the parish’s pastor until an administrative review process is completed, according to a statement from the archdiocese.

While he will not remain in residence at St. Thomas More Parish, Father Belczak’s public ministry as a priest is not impacted at this time.

The alleged misappropriation and mismanagement include:

• Taking excess compensation beyond archdiocesan policies, estimating a loss of $92,000 to the parish over the past six years.

• Accepting and directing funds to himself that should have been posted to parish accounts, estimating a loss to the parish of $16,000 over the past six years.

• Compensating, with benefits, an individual best described as a “ghost employee,” estimating a loss of $240,000 to the parish over the past six years.

• Maintaining improper medical/dental insurance coverage for an individual, estimating a loss of approximately $26,000 to the parish over the past six years.

• Authorizing a long-term disability policy for one employee, while not providing a similar benefit to other parish staff members, estimating a loss of $20,000 to the parish.

• Allowing for the operation of the St. Thomas More Travel Group as a parish-related activity, while none of the financial transactions, records or bank accounts were disclosed for financial reporting or official purposes.

• Accepting, but not depositing or recording in parish accounts, residual commission checks to the St. Thomas More Travel Group, estimating a loss of $25,000 to the parish over the past six years.
• Failing to record or deposit monies received through the Mother’s Day and Father’s Day special collections according to archdiocesan policies; failing to monitor currency in an amount over $10,000, found in an employee’s office desk.

Belczak, ordained in 1972, also served in the past as first associate pastor and then co-pastor of Royal Oak-based National Shrine of the Little Flower Parish and associate pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in Farmington.

He had been with St. Thomas More since 1984.

Monsignor John Zenz, episcopal vicar of the Northwest Region and pastor of Holy Name Parish in Birmingham, has been named administrator of St. Thomas More.

The Troy Police Department is currently conducting its own investigation, reviewing “financial improprieties,” according to a department official.

“The archdiocese has fully cooperated with civil authorities in this case and will continue to do so,” according to a statement from the archdiocese.

Recent church personnel troubles

Members of the clergy and church personnel have had a number of brushes with the law in recent years.

• In December, a West Michigan pastor who authorities say embezzled more than $300,000 could be free within six months if he participates in a boot camp program. Etheridge Henry Moore, who had served as pastor at Heritage Baptist Church near Kentwood, was sentenced one to 20 years in prison. Police began investigating the case last July. Moore turned himself in to church leadership and asked they contact police about his actions. Moore must pay $320,000 in restitution to cover an estimated $316,000 loss and about $4,000 the church spent on accountants.

• Toledo woman who allegedly pocketed about $2.1 million from the United Catholic Credit Union in Temperance pleaded guilty last year as charged to one count each of financial institution embezzlement and racketeering, with both felonies punishable by up to 20 years. Sharon Broadway, 62, pleaded guilty to embezzling the money from the credit union since 1985. She was sentenced Jan. 17 to at least 45 months in prison. The embezzlement was discovered after a routine examination by the Office of Financial and Insurance Regulation showed that a number of certificates of deposit went unrecorded on the credit union’s books.  

• In October, a 77-year-old Roseville woman admitted to stealing tens of thousands of dollars from the Warren church she helped form. Helen Gvozdich pleaded guilty to embezzlement of between $50,000 and $100,0000 under the agreement she would repay $50,000 to St. Stevan Decanski Serbian Orthodox Church. Gvozdich was originally accused in spring 2011 of stealing $79,000 from the church, located on 11 Mile Road. She was sentenced to five years of probation in November and been ordered to repay $50,000.

• The former chief financial officer for Pontiac-based Trinity Missionary Baptist Church was sentenced in September to 50 months to 20 years in prison for embezzling more than $650,000 in church funds in September. The charges against Reuben Bynum, 61, of West Bloomfield, came after the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office launched a forensic investigation at a Trinity deacon’s request and determined that Bynum had forged a required second signature on checks from the church account, as well as misusing the church ATM and debit cards. Bynum was also told to make restitution payments of $669,163 and an additional $99,225 in interest.

• Last August Rev. Peter Petroske, pastor of Dearborn’s Sacred Heart Parish, was arrested naked and intoxicated alone in his vehicle. He faced charges of disorderly/obscene conduct and operating while intoxicated. He was sentenced last December to probation and fined.

• In 2011, a volunteer chaplain at the Ferndale police department was relieved of his duties after a man died at his home of a drug overdose. Mark Bidwell told police he met a man named Steven Fitch on a gay dating website and they agreed to go to his house for sex. Reports indicated that Fitch used crystal meth and later became sick. Police were called but Fitch was pronounced dead of an overdose at a local hospital.

Former Portage schools employee pleads no contest to misdemeanor embezzlement charge in Michigan

A former Portage Public Schools employee on Monday pleaded no contest to embezzling from the district.

Marcia Ann Zahrt, 48, is to be sentenced March 11 for embezzlement of $200 to $1,000, misdemeanor, by Kalamazoo County Circuit Judge J. Richardson Johnson.
By pleading no contest to that charge, Zahrt neither admits nor denies her guilt. The judge, however, may treat the plea the same as an admission of guilt at sentencing.

The original charge of felony embezzlement of $999 to $20,000, along with three counts of stealing/retaining a financial transaction device, are to be dismissed at sentencing if she follows her bond conditions.

According to the charges, Zahrt used a school district credit card to pay for $1,074 in personal expenses.

School officials said she was terminated from her job as an assistant in the human resources department on Sept. 5, when the embezzlement was reported to the Portage Department of Public Safety.

Zahrt had worked for the district since 2000, a district spokeswoman said.

As a human resources assistant, Zahrt had access to a district credit card to buy office supplies and training materials. A Portage Public Schools official said in October that Zahrt used a the credit card to pay for $1,074 in personal expenses.

More charges in church embezzlement in Michigan

 A 72-year-old accused of stealing money from church offerings faces two more charges of larceny.

Joseph Finnigan was charged in November 2012 with embezzlement by an agent or trustee of between $20,000 and $50,000, a 10-year felony.

Tuesday, Finnigan waived a preliminary exam and was charged with two more counts of larceny over $20,000.

Finnigan, who worked for St. Patrick-St. Anthony Catholic Church in Grand Haven for years, allegedly admitted to taken the money over a long time period. He was fired.

After school club manager struck off for embezzlement in Edinburgh

An after school club manager has been struck off after she embezzled almost £4,500.
Andrena McCue took the cash from the Squids day care centre in South Queensferry, Edinburgh, which could have been forced to close as a result.
The 45-year-old was convicted at Edinburgh Sheriff Court in March this year and given a community payback order and ordered to do 140 hours of unpaid work.
Now the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) – which regulates childrens’ day care workers – has barred her from the profession.
The SSSC said McCue had never given any explanation for her actions and she had “exploited” colleagues.
The £4480 was taken between January and July 2011 from Squids, which looked after children from several primary schools in the area, the SSSC said.
The SSSC committee said last week: “She had, over an extended period of time, embezzled money from her employer.
“This was fundamentally incompatible with the role of a manager in day care services for children. It showed a high level of dishonesty for which no explanation had been given.
“[McCue's] employer was a small voluntary organisation.
“Her actions could have caused the employer to be unable to continue in operation.
“[McCue] had failed to follow proper procedures and had exploited her employer, service users and colleagues by her actions.
“In the circumstances such dishonest behaviour fell well short of the standard of conduct expected of a person registered with the Council.”
Saying embezzlement was an “extremely serious offence”, the committee ordered her to be removed from the register of children’s day care workers.
The SSSC committee said she had a previous conviction for embezzlement, which occurred “some time ago.”
McCue, from South Queensferry, registered as a day care for children worker in 2008.

Former Royal Oak principal sentenced for embezzlement in Michigan

A former Royal Oak principal was sentenced to 2 years probation Tuesday for embezzling thousands of dollars from accounts meant for various student activities.
Michael Greening, the former Royal Oak High School Principal, was charged with two counts of Embezzlement of $1,000 or more, but less than $20,000.
In 2011, the Royal Oak school district asked the Royal Oak Police Department to investigate financial irregularities involving funds associated with the high school's various student activity accounts.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Oregon charter school founders accused in $20 million racketeering lawsuit


Tim King and Norm Donohoe, who ran a chain of taxpayer-funded charter schools across small-town Oregonfrom their headquarters in Clackamas, scammed the state out of $17 million and must repay that plus $2.7 million more, the state said in a court filing this week.
The legal claim, brought Thursday by the Oregon Department of Justice in Marion County Circuit Court, accuses the pair of racketeering, money laundering and other fraud from 2007 to 2010.
King and Donohoe, who were the director and president, respectively, of a nonprofit they named EdChoices, submitted false, incomplete and misleading records about how many students were enrolled in the schools and how they were spending the state's money, state prosecutors say in the complaint.
"It's not true," Donohoe said when reached after 5 p.m. Friday. He said EdChoices' attorney would need to speak for him but was not available after hours. King could not be reached for comment.
The pair opened and operated at least 10 charter schools that went by various and changing names, including Baker Web Academy, Estacada Early College and Sheridan AllPrep Academy. Most were launched under the name AllPrep. They existed under agreements with the school boards in Estacada, Sisters, Baker City, Sheridan, Burns and Marcola, but enrolled students from across the state in their online programs.
The state provided startup grants of up to $450,000 per charter school. The state Department of Educationalso paid about $6,000 a year for each student enrolled, relying on the charter school operators to document the number. The state now says those records were "erroneous, false and misleading."
King was the charismatic front man for AllPrep when the schools' unraveling finances prompted state regulators in the education and justice departments to begin asking questions in spring 2010. He quickly stepped down. Donohoe said Friday that he doesn't know how to reach him.
Some of the schools abruptly closed during the school year, leaving students and teachers in a lurch. Others have since stopped operating. Still others operate under new auspices.
Before starting AllPrep schools, King was a former teacher paid to create and run three North Clackamas School District charter schools: New Urban High, Clackamas Middle College and Clackamas Web Academy. Those schools are still operating, though King left in 2008.
The district discovered a trail of financial problems, including hundreds of thousands of dollars in questioned expenditures, only after his departure. The three schools agreed in 2009 to repay the district almost $400,000, a debt load that crimped their operations. But the state did not file a legal claim against King.
With AllPrep, King and Donohoe secured each small-town school board's agreement to let them start charter schools in those districts. The boards unknowingly agreed to turn over 20 percent to 25 percent of the per-student funding from the state to EdChoices, the state alleges.
When King sought startup grants to launch the schools, he agreed many times in writing to abide by the terms, including spending them only on allowable expenses at that particular school. He eventually won more than $2 million in such grants, but did not spend all the money as promised and fraudulently mingled funds from different schools to benefit EdChoices, the state says.
King and his wife filed for bankruptcy in Oregon in 2011.
The state is demanding that King and Donohoe repay all the money their schools received in grants and per-student funding, on the grounds it all was obtained under racketeering and false claims, even though the schools did legitimately educate some students. That adds up to $17 million.
In addition, the claim demands $2.7 million in damages for breach of contract plus attorney fees and the costs of investigation and litigation

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Embezzlement case stalls against former LaFayette pastor, wife in Georgia

A year and a half after Roger and Christi Morgan were accused of bilking a woman who was in their care out of her life savings, prosecutors haven't gone forward with the case in Georgia.
Prosecutors say they still are investigating claims that Christi Morgan stole at least $165,000 from 64-year-old Jackie Humphrey, a distant relative for whom Christi had power of attorney. Roger Morgan was accused of turning a blind eye as his wife bought their 2,500-square-foot house with cash.
Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorney Alan Norton wouldn't say what was delaying the case but saidprosecutors hope to be finished in a few months.
The Morgans, who shepherded North LaFayette Baptist Church for six years, have been charged in Hamilton County, as well, and that case is getting closer to a trial date. On Friday, the couple was arraigned and assigned separate attorneys.
In the second case the Morgans are charged with theft over $60,000 on allegations that they used Humphrey's debit card for at least $83,000 in purchases and that their 23-year-old son, Christopher, spent $20,000. Christopher Morgan is charged with theft of property.
All are free on bail.
Humphrey's family claims that the Morgans spent nearly $1.3 million of her life savings over three years as well as selling her house without her permission and getting rid of family heirlooms including her grandmother's wedding ring.
The family has a pending civil suit against Christi Morgan.

Convicted bookkeeper gets another year in prison after fake breast cancer claim in Tennessee


A thieving church bookkeeper who faked breast cancer to avoid reporting to prison has netted more time behind bars for her trickery.
U.S. District Judge Thomas Phillips sentenced Angela Elwood, 48, to another year in a federal prison for her conviction on a charge of obstruction of justice for presenting fake medical records claiming she had been diagnosed with breast cancer and needed treatment.
Elwood served as a bookkeeper for the Jefferson City Christian Church when, in January 2004, she began stealing from the congregation, diverting money from the church's bank accounts to pay her bills and forging signatures on checks to acquire cash. The theft spanned more than two years and totaled more than $218,000, according to court records.
She was eventually indicted on federal bank fraud charges. In March 2009, Phillips sentenced her to spend two years in federal prison. However, he allowed her to remain free while the U.S. Bureau of Prisons processed her paperwork and designated at which federal facility she would be placed.
Beginning in May 2009, Elwood began a scheme to avoid prison, court records state. First, she drafted fake medical records showing she was scheduled for a biopsy and needed to delay reporting to prison to get the results. Phillips agreed, court records state.
As her prison report date neared, she produced bogus medical reports stating she had been diagnosed with breast cancer and needed immediate treatment. Phillips again granted her a delay.
She kept up the ruse until January 2010 when the U.S. Probation Office notified Assistant U.S. Attorney Trey Hamilton that the University of Tennessee Medical Center had confirmed that her biopsy was negative for cancer. She was delivered to a federal prison in February 2010.
Elwood's attorney Bryan Delius had urged Phillips to grant Elwood probation in the obstruction case. He argued Hamilton waited until she finished her embezzlement prison term before bringing the obstruction charge. If he hadn't tarried, Delius argued, Elwood could have served the two prison terms

Saturday, January 19, 2013

How nonprofits can prevent embezzlement and fraud


Now is the time for nonprofits to review and strengthen financial internal controls.
Conventional wisdom is that embezzlement and fraud occurs more in tough economic times. Perpetrators may be facing personal financial distress and may want to “borrow” money or assets, or think the organization doesn’t really need those things.
It is easier to hide fraud during good times, however, especially during times of economic recovery. The number of transactions rises, making it harder to identify a single incident or a pattern. Also, vigilant boards and senior staff may relax as times get easier.
Here are some steps that may help prevent embezzlement and fraud:
  • Have multiple layers of approval for expenditures: Require two signatures for expenditures above an amount that is significant. The check preparer is not to sign the check.
  • Require original receipts, invoices and other documentation before payment is made.
  • Segregate duties: No one person is responsible for an active financial transaction. This means no one person is responsible for receiving, depositing, recording and reconciling the receipt of funds. And no one person is responsible for authorizing payments, disbursing funds and reconciling bank statements.
  • Back up financial records daily.
  • Require employees who hold financial positions to take an uninterrupted vacation for two weeks. This permits transactions to clear in their absence. An employee refusing to go on vacation could signal a problem.
  • Never pre-sign checks.
  • Actively encourage whistleblowers and have a whistleblower policy.
  • Have an independent audit. Although these audits must only give “reasonable” assurance that no material misstatements have been made, the process the auditors use helps uncover improper transactions.
  • Conduct pre-employment background checks for all employees with fiduciary duties.
  • Prosecute perpetrators.

    Read more here:

Rocklin youth sports organization president accused of embezzlement in California


The president of Rocklin Junior Thunder Football and Cheer Association was arrested this morning, accused of embezzling from the organization.
Stephanie Ann Abercrombie, 41, (pictured) was booked into Placer County Jail on suspicion of burglary, embezzlement of more than $400 and forgery.
On Dec. 5, Rocklin police received a report alleging that Ambercrombie had embezzled funds that had been entrusted to her for the daily operations of the nonprofit youth sports organization. After several weeks of investigation it was determined that Abercrombie had embezzled more than $20,000 from the Rocklin Junior Thunder, according to a Police Department news release.
At 8:30 this morning, Rocklin detectives arrested Abercrombie at her home.

Read more here:

Two Former East Carolina University Employees Charged With Embezzlement

Two former ECU employees are accused of stealing thousands of dollars while they worked as cashiers at a university operated pharmacy.
Sandra Martinez of Greenville was arrested yesterday by ECU police on a charge of embezzlement of state property. Courthouse documents say the 37-year-old woman stole $62,428.73. Sherry Moore, 34, of La Grange was charged Wednesday with taking $17,000.
Both worked at the Bernstein Center Pharmacy on Easy Street and ECU says the thefts happened from July 1, 2010 until October 31, 2012.
ECU says an internal audit identified possible financial discrepancies and ECU police began a criminal investigation in November.
The university says Martinez was cashier and had worked for them since April 2011. Moore was a pharmacy technician and had been an employee since June 2001.
Both women were fired on January 9th for unacceptable personal conduct, according to ECU.
The pharmacy at the Bernstein Center is operated by ECU Physicians.
ECU says it has implemented additional measures to strengthen oversight to prevent future thefts

Friday, January 18, 2013

Birmingham schools employees charged in theft of more than $400,000 in auto parts in Alabama

Three Birmingham Board of Education employees are among four people charged in an elaborate scheme that authorities said led to the theft of more than $400,000 in auto parts.
The investigation began in September 2012 when the State Board of Education Intervention Team notified the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office of serious financial discrepancies in Birmingham's BOE Transportation Division. District Attorney Brandon Falls said they passed on that information to the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, and together they immediately launched a joint probe.
The discovery came while The Birmingham Board of Education was under state intervention for finances and board governance. The probe into the system's finances is still ongoing.
Sheriff's Chief Deputy Randy Christian said investigators learned that three men, all employees of the Birmingham Board of Education Transportation Division, were working with an employee of an area parts supplier to create fake invoices indicating the purchase of parts for school bus maintenance. The parts were actually for vehicle models such as Kia, Mercedes, Lexus and Harley-Davidson.
The parts were then taken to private mechanic businesses owned by the men. The Birmingham Board of Education does not have any of these vehicles in their fleet.
During the investigation a search warrant was executed at a mechanics shop owned by one of the suspects, Christian said. A Harley-Davidson Motorcycle and a Mercedes automobile were seized as evidence. The value of the stolen parts, which Christian said were taken over a three-year period, is more than $400,000.
The school employees charged are: Maury Willis Pettway, 50; Marcellous Blackmon, 52; Rodney Everson, 47; all of Birmingham. All three are charged with first-degree theft and use of public position for personal gain.
All three remain at large. Pettway's bond is set at $60,000. Bonds for Blackmon and Everson are set at $40,000.
Also charged in the scheme is 40-year-old Kimberly Watson, an auto parts supplier employee. Watson's bond is set at $40,000. Christian said all four are expected to surrender to sheriff's officials.
Birmingham schools spokeswoman Michaelle Chapman said all three school employees have been placed on administrative leave.
"This was quite a scam this group had going and I am happy to report that this investigation has put a stop to it,'' said Jefferson County Sheriff Mike Hale. "This bunch is no better than someone that would steal from a child, which in the grand scheme is exactly what they were doing. I am very appreciative of the District Attorney's office bringing this to the forefront.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Fleeced priests in Nashville turn to court in pursuit of lost nest eggs

While planning for retirement after 30 years of serving St. Mary Catholic Church in downtown Nashville, the Rev. James Norman Miller entrusted Eric Peterson with his finances. Peterson, who claimed to have experience in business and investments, sounded knowledgeable — and allegedly assured Miller there would be 7.25 percent interest return on his loans.
So Miller, with little background in business or finances, started signing promissory notes to Peterson in 2009. In June 2011, Miller upped his investment with Peterson to more than $200,000 — a sum accumulated after years of frugal living. The notes included a stipulation that Peterson’s promised repayments would transfer to the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky after Miller’s death.
And while Miller received some repayments, including one left under a mat at Miller’s residence, the money eventually stopped coming.
“Father Miller will continue to search for answers, petition for repayment of his assets, and repair the damage resulting from a breach of his trust,” said Miller’s attorney, William Haynes III.
Unfortunately, Miller wasn’t alone. He and a list of other creditors are claiming Peterson owes them millions of dollars. Creditors first filed an involuntary bankruptcy petition against Peterson and two related entities, Peterson Enterprises and Peterson Insurance, in August 2012.
The circumstances were almost all the same: Peterson convinced individuals to make investments or loans — with the promise of repayment with interest. Most of the repayments weren’t made.
And Miller wasn’t the only clergyman involved in the filing.
The Rev. Sidney Maddox also invested money with Peterson. In that case, Peterson served as a financial officer for Maddox’s church and gained his trust. Peterson told Maddox that he had clients who were worth in excess of $40 million, according to court filings.
Maddox invested $341,000 with Peterson, but repayments halted. Maddox, who was once president of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, died at the age of 96 in November — less than a week after a claim was filed on his behalf in the bankruptcy case.
A lawsuit filed in Davidson County Chancery Court last spring sheds some light on Peterson’s financial history. Peterson’s father, Howard, owned the Peterson Machinery Co. When Howard Peterson died in 1992, he disbursed his portion of an entity called Seventh Avenue Properties to his sons, including Eric Peterson, who already had smaller stakes in the partnership.
SAP owned a parcel of land at 309 Seventh Ave. S. in downtown Nashville. The United Methodist Publishing House bought that land in 1998 for $1.28 million — adding an influx of cash into the SAP partnership. (The parcel is now part of the Music City Center.)
But Peterson’s partners in the SAP, including his brothers Trent and Tevin, sued him earlier this year, claiming they haven’t seen any of the money from that land sale — or funds from other properties owned by SAP in Green Hills and Destin, Fla.
The first sign that something was wrong came in April 2012 when Peterson called his brother Trent — who he allegedly hadn’t communicated with in two years — and requested $20,000 urgently. Peterson said he needed the money to pay off taxes on the Destin property, according to the lawsuit.
Peterson told his brothers that he had been sick for the past two years and that his life was in shambles, the suit claims. He claimed a client had “taken him to the cleaners” — and he was awaiting a $250,000 payment.
But Trent Peterson claims Eric Peterson told him in a conversation earlier in the year that everything was going well. His brothers claim Peterson has withheld information about SAP’s financial status.
The suit asks the court to oust Peterson from the partnership — and for him to pay back all the money he transferred out of SAP. The case has since been closed pending Peterson’s hefty bankruptcy case.
Overall, Peterson’s bankruptcy cases contain more than a dozen creditors, including the two clergymen, claiming more than $6 million. Separate filings ask the bankruptcy court not to discharge the debts due to fraud, embezzlement and larceny.
Peterson declined to comment when contacted through his legal counsel, Charles Pickrell.
A meeting of Peterson’s creditors is set for Jan. 28.

Amount of Eldred embezzlement still a mystery in New York

None of the missing funds with which former Eldred Central School District Business Administrator William Thornton allegedly absconded has been recovered to date. Superintendent Robert Dufour’s only reference to the matter at the school board meeting on January 10 was that he was grateful to the New York State Police for all that they did in bringing out the improprieties alleged against the embattled Thornton.
“In Eldred, it’s the state police that handle a matter of this kind,” said Doug Reiser, school board president.
Taxpayers can expect to pay $6,000 for an audit into just how much money may have been pilfered by Thornton.
Thornton, whose salary topped $86,000, or 73% higher than the state average, resigned in November for alleged financial improprieties. He has served in the position since July 2010, but held various other positions within the school district in an approximate tenure of 10 years.
The board did break for executive session to discuss legal matters, but because of the nature of executive sessions it was unclear if the Thornton case was at issue.
On the superintendent’s webpage on the school’s internet site, Dufour said that the dollar amount of missing funds would be determined by the January 10 board meeting, but Reiser said on January 11, “That’s still not a matter of public knowledge.”
“The missing money damages the district,” Reiser told The River Reporter, “but the job of the board is to address the educational needs of the students,” he said.
Thornton could not be reached for comment.

Ex-bursar for Oklahoma City Community College is sentenced in embezzlement

A former Oklahoma City Community College bursar was sentenced Wednesday to 27 months in a federal prison and ordered to repay nearly $400,000 she admitted embezzling from the school, officials said.
Brandi J. Henson, 49, of Yukon, pleaded guilty in August to federal wire fraud and agreed to pay restitution as part of her plea agreement with federal prosecutors.
U.S. District Judge David L. Russell also sentenced Henson to three years of supervised release and ordered her to repay more than $398,315. She must report to federal prison Feb. 18, officials said.
In plea papers filed in federal court in Oklahoma City, Henson admitted her guilt: “I am guilty and do not want to make this any more costly or painful for anyone than it already is,” she wrote.
Neither Henson nor her attorney could be reached for comment Wednesday.
Between 2004 and 2011, Henson used her access as a bursar to the college's financial accounts to steal the money. Prosecutors said in a statement that Henson paid off more than $398,000 in personal credit card bills with OCCC refunds she posted to her accounts.

Former Johnson Elementary PTA Treasurer Pleads Guilty to Embezzlement Charges in West Virginia

A former PTA treasurer at Johnson Elementary School in Clarksburg pleaded guilty to embezzlement charges Thursday.
Melissa Dawn Wilfong has pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $25,000 from the organization.
Wilfong faces one to ten years in prison or one year in regional jail and a fine of up to $2,500.
She has resigned from her position as treasurer of the PTA.

Muskogee Police Open School District Embezzlement Investigation in Oklahoma

Muskogee Police say they are looking into embezzlement allegations involving a former employee at Muskogee Public Schools.
In a news release, the police department says the possible embezzlement of the former employee concerns several thousand dollars reportedly missing between August of 2011 and May of 2012.
Police says once their investigation is complete, they will forward their findings to the Muskogee County District Attorney's office.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Yukon cafeteria worker accused of stealing $8,000 in lunch money

A former cafeteria manager at a Yukon elementary school is accused of stealing more than $8,000 in lunch money during the last school year.
Connie Lynn Wise, 54, was arrested Monday and booked into the Canadian County jail. She is charged with four counts of embezzlement and one count of violating the Oklahoma Computer Crimes Act.
Wise, who has resigned from the district, worked at Lakeview Elementary School as a cafeteria manager before her arrest.
An affidavit filed in Canadian County District Court shows that Wise would pocket cash intended to prepay students' meal accounts. The defendant then “manipulated the computer system” to conceal the thefts, records show.
“An audit of the software revealed that numerous prepayments for students' lunches were backdated in the computer program,” the affidavit states. “The defendant was responsible for making these false computer entries based upon the user identification.”
Court records show that Wise took money from students on “approximately” 150 individual school days last year.
“With few exceptions, the only days that money was not missing were the days that the defendant did not come to work due to illness,” the affidavit states.
Wise quit her job after she was confronted by Yukon school officials, records show.

“She did tell school officials she wished to make restitution, because she feels responsible as a manager,” the affidavit states, “but denies the thefts.”
In total, the affidavit shows the defendant stole $8,270 during the 2011-2012 school year.

Wise left evidence
Yukon Public Schools Superintendent Bill Denton said the district began to suspect something was amiss at Lakeview after officials noticed “some discrepancies in some of the deposits.”
Denton said the district began to investigate, but didn't truly figure out the scheme until they found some evidence left by Wise.
“We really didn't figure out the system she used until we found some handwritten notes that she did so she could keep track of the cash she took,” Denton said. “She would come back weeks later and make the entry into the students' accounts so that it never showed up that their account wasn't accounted for when she took the cash.”
Court records show Wise was released Tuesday after posting $9,000 bail.
Messages left at Wise's home were not returned Tuesday.

PTO Embezzlement case will be heard by judge alone

The former chair of Discovery Passage school’s Parent Advisory Council and her husband, who are both charged with embezzling funds raised for the school, made their first court appearance Monday.

Jessica Taylor, 35, and husband Neil Taylor, 35, stood before Justice of the Peace Christine Ballman as Neil’s defence lawyer, James Hormoth, and Brian Dybwad (agent for Doug Marion, Jessica’s defence lawyer) said they had elected to go to trial before a judge alone.

Dybwad said Marion “estimates four days (for the trial) – three days for a preliminary inquiry.”

The Taylors are expected back in court on Monday.

Both Jessica and Neil have plead not guilty to one count of fraud over $5,000 and one count of theft over $5,000. The pair allegedly stole the money from the small elementary school’s Parent Advisory Council between Dec. 1, 2010 and Jan. 31, 2012.

During that time, Jessica served as the chair for part of the 2011/12 school year and as treasurer in 2011, while Neil filled the role of treasurer in 2011-12.

RCMP Staff Sgt. Troy Beauregard said police received a complaint from the Parent Advisory Council last January, and after a lengthy investigation, the Taylors were charged on Nov. 9 with one count each of theft and fraud.

Jessica was the driving force behind a campaign to raise money for the school to fund a new playground throughout 2011 and the early part of 2012.

She was concerned after the school district tore down the old wooden climber that the students would have nothing to play on, particularly the influx of young students who were about to start all-day kindergarten that fall.

The Mirror covered Jessica’s – and the rest of the Parent Advisory Council’s – rigourous fundraising efforts over a span of a year and a half.

Over that time, the parent group raised about $8,000 through a fun fair, magazine sales, a student’s pledges collected for completing the Great Walk from Tahsis to Gold River, plus a $10,000 reimbursement grant from the province to cover an addition added to the original playground.

The school finally did get its playground after Jessica was no longer on the Parent Advisory Council, thanks to a $50,000 provincial grant it received in June 2012.

Tips to avoid embezzlement

The arrest last week of a manager at the Bloomfield, New Mexico, Motor Vehicle Department on suspicion of embezzling $24,000 was only the latest in a rash of employee thefts in San Juan County.
Accountants and business leaders say small businesses can take steps to protect themselves from employee theft. Good accounting practices are a must.
Most commonly the embezzlement cases we find, the employer or whoever is being embezzled from looks at their accounting practices and reconsiders what they're going to do in the future.
A lot of business owners are too trusting of their employees.
In the past year, the Farmington, New Mexixo area has seen a streak of suspected fraud and embezzlement, including the suspected $450,000 theft from the Convention and Visitors Bureau, $5 million from two cases relating to a failed hospital proposal, a fake charity scam, and staff theft from a concrete business.
Accountants and investigators say it's likely many more cases are not reported.
Particularly small businesses, they don't want their reputation ruined, they don't want to look stupid, so they don't report it. They certainly don't report it to the press. Business owners should assess their exposure to internal theft, and then develop procedures to mitigate those risks, he said.
Most important to avoiding embezzlement is internal controls such as having two people examining accounts. Experts also recommend different people fill out deposit slips and take the deposits to the bank. Owners should also make sure employees aren't writing business checks to themselves.
The individual owner needs to be looking at the bank reconciliations, making sure the checks that clear are the checks he's authorized.
Particularly when you're a nonprofit, I don't think you can have too many eyes looking at the finances and the money that comes into the organization.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Plea Hearing for Individual Charged in Johnson Elementary PTA Embezzlement Set in West Virginia

The individual who allegedly embezzled tens of thousands of dollars from the Johnson Elementary School PTA will have a plea hearing Jan. 16 in front of Harrison County Circuit Judge Thomas Bedell. An official in the office of Harrison County Prosecutor Joe Shaffer said the hearing will take place at roughly 2:15 p.m.

Barring a continuance, Melissa Wilfong of Bridgeport will enter her plea that time. Shaffer said the process is fairly simple.

“The defendant will go in front of the judge with their lawyer and, generally, plead guilty,” Shaffer said. “You never know if the guilty plea will be entered until it happens, but that’s what it’s scheduled for.”

Wilfong was arrested by West Virginia State Police the morning of August. 15. Wilfong, 36 at the time of the arrest, was charged with felony embezzlement. Shaffer said that Wilfong was charged with allegedly embezzling more than $20,000. Published and other media reports had that total at $20,195.

The investigation into the missing funds from the PTA became public knowledge in June. Wilfong served as treasurer of the PTA until June. It was determined by an investigation of the West Virginia State Police that she acted alone, Shaffer said.

“It’s not likely that the defendant will be sentenced at the hearing,” said Shaffer, whose office represents the state in the case. “The typical procedure is that following the entering of the plea, a pre-sentencing investigation report would be done. That report is handled by the probation office and a sentencing date is set at a later time.”

Wilfong is charge with one felony count of embezzlement. The charge, said Shaffer, comes with a jail sentence range of between 1 and 10 years and carries with it the possibility of a fine.

News of the situation broke June 21. Former Harrison County Board of Education President Paul Howe said an audit of the PTA’s books was done by Tetrick & Bartlett and that information was given to the State Police in their investigation.

Current Harrison County Board of Education president Mike Queen said in August he’s anticipating Wilfong will make full restitution to the PTA. He also said that he anticipates restitution for the BOE’s accounting and legal fees in the matter

West Virginia State Police Sgt. Mark Kiddy handled the investigation of the case, according to Shaffer.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Bookkeeper's theft and betrayal can't be repaid in Illinois


There's no way Katherine Capponi can ever pay back what she stole from her community.
I'm not talking about just the $1.2 million the 74-year-old grandmother pilfered as an office worker at the Roanoke-Benson school district. Her savings and investment accounts can cover about a fifth of the loss. But what about the rest? After prison - four years minimum - where does a 78-year-old ex-con get hired? Can she work as a Walmart greeter until she earns almost $1 million to make full restitution?
Fat chance. But that's not the only gaping shortfall left in the wake of Capponi's hoodwinking taxpayers and friends. Her decade-long scheme and shocking arrest made folly of the district, which blithely but blindly had trusted the 42-year bookkeeper and administrative assistant. Along the way, her sly selfishness forced the budget-strapped district to slash jobs.
"There were people here hurt by those cuts, and there were people hurt by her betrayal," says Rohn Peterson, superintendent of Community Unit School District 60.
His comment answers at least one of the many questions resounding in the rural Woodford County school district since Capponi's startling arrest in June. Ever since, some observers have asked, "How can you throw a grandmother behind bars?" But such softhearted sentiment crumbles under the hard facts that finally came out this week at Capponi's sentencing, a testament to her jaw-dropping gall and greed.
For one, the sum is staggering. She'd been charged with a felony, theft of government property worth at least $100,000. That was stupefying enough, to think that the smiling school secretary would back-stab her neighbors and bilk the district for so much money.
Yet the sum turned out to be nearly 12 times worse: $1,189,000. How did she pull that off? As revealed in court this week, she'd write checks to herself on the district account, then intercept and alter the returned checks to make them look legitimate. There was no oversight: who would suspect such a trusted employee?
"There was one blind spot that we had not been aware of, and neither had our auditors," says Peterson.
This went on for 10 years, with checks mostly ranging from $100 to $400. Wow. That's a lot of checks. At an average of $250 per transaction, that would be about 4,800 checks. Woodford County State's Attorney Greg Minger tells me she didn't write that many checks, but the number was in the thousands.
But say there were around 3,000 checks. Over 10 years, that's about one check per working day. I'm not saying that's exactly what happened. But that kind of ballpark figure show that this long-term swindle was something like a full-time job - and carried a handsome payoff.
Though Capponi spent most of the dough - almost $950,000 - she never showed any change in her middle-class lifestyle. She and her husband, Norman Capponi, long have lived in an average, $137,000 home in the middle of Roanoke. And nothing there seemed to change over the past decade.
"No one would have suspected anything," Peterson says.
In hindsight, observers ponder the couple and perhaps the most elusive piece of this puzzle: didn't her husband know about her pocketing an extra $100,000-plus per year? No, says prosecutor Minger.
"It appears they lived very separate lives," Minger says. "They had separate accounts, and they were rarely seen together."
On Wednesday, Norman Capponi politely declined to comment about his wife's case.
"It's too early," he told me. "Maybe sometime down the road. But not right now."
As far as investigators could tell, he did not accompany Katherine Capponi on multiple plane trips to visit kinfolk in Texas. Or join her at a great many dining-out excursions. Or help her buy scads of gifts for grandchildren and others.
Facing six to 30 years if convicted, Capponi decided to no longer court risk. She opted for a plea Tuesday that put her sentence at eight years, which she started serving immediately after the hearing. With good behavior, she'll get out in four years.
Minger agreed to a term on the low end of the sentencing range because Capponi agreed to fork over $235,000 in restitution within 30 days. That's the amount she has in various savings and investment accounts. Minger says he isn't sure if that money came from her salary or the thefts.
"But it doesn't matter," he says. "It's ours now."
By ours, he means Roanoke-Benson school district. Peterson says the money will go into the district's working-cash fund, which can go toward educational and other costs. He says the money will stay put until needed.
Since the arrest, the district has instituted safeguards to avid a Capponi-like repeat. But over the past several years, lean times forced the district to slash the art program, a part-time art teacher and several other positions. Had Capponi not ripped off the district, students might have had better educations.
"We had to tighten our belts," Peterson says. "We've lost some other positions that in retrospect might not have had to happen."
As for the rest of the stolen money? "The chances of recovering that are few and slim, unfortunately," he says.
Minger agrees further restitution is unlikely. Capponi has two years after imprisonment - at age 80, at the earliest - to make good with the district. If she doesn't, criminal law would allow a prosecutor little leeway, just the filing of a contempt-of-court charge. But Capponi owns little of value, so that threat would do little to prompt restitution.
The school district could attempt a civil suit. Theoretically, a judge could order her belongings be auctioned, with proceeds going to the district. Again, she owns almost nothing. There's the house, but it's also in her husband's name, so a judge would be unlikely to boot him out and sell it.
Otherwise, she owns clothes, and that's about it.
"I guess they could auction her clothes," Minger says, not enthused. "That's not much money."
Nope. Not anymore. Not much of anything all.