Friday, May 31, 2013

Former school principal’s trial for embezzlement re-scheduled in Mississippi

Former Olive Branch Middle School principal Mike McCoy, who was indicted on conspiracy and embezzlement charges, will be now be tried in August.
The Commercial Appeal reports McCoy’s trial was scheduled for trial next week.
McCoy’s trial date is now set for Aug. 19 in DeSoto County Circuit Court in Hernando. If he enters a plea, the plea date has been set for Aug. 13.
McCoy, former assistant principal Audrey Brooke Phillips and former bookkeeper Kelli McGowen were indicted for conspiracy to embezzle and embezzlement by a public employee.
The three are accused of taking more than $10,000 from various school accounts.
McGowen and Phillips have each applied for DeSoto County’s Pretrial Diversion program for nonviolent, first-time offenders. Their applications are pending.

Church Embezzlement (and six ways to guard against it


By Mark Brooks -

The numbers just did not add up. A few years back I was working with a church that was struggling financially, yet their giving was strong. They shouldn't have been struggling to make budget. I remember telling the pastor that I thought he should get an audit. He dismissed my advice as being unnecessary. Recently this church made headlines when it was revealed that the financial secretary was embezzling funds from the church. Suddenly it all made sense—including why she always made getting their data difficult. Thieves never like working in the light.

Recent headlines throughout the country are reporting similar incidents. It should be noted that the press loves a bad story and they will always highlight any shortcomings in the church. Thus, while incidents like the one I encountered are rare, they nonetheless do occur.

A scandal involving the finances of the church results in more than bad press, it discourages giving. One of the top reasons stated in surveys of why people give to an institution is that they trust that institution with their money. If you lose that trust, it is difficult and sometimes impossible to ever win it back. A wise church takes steps ahead of time to avoid this kind of fiasco.

Here are some basic steps your church can take to avoid the above examples.

1.) First, establish good accounting systems. There are scores of good church accounting software that is affordable and effective in tracking your giving and spending.

2.) Set up internal accountability. You should have a lay team of qualified people serving as your finance team. This team should have full access to all records. Any hired staff member that handles money should regularly report to this lay team.

3.) Always have more than one person handling the collected offering and counting what comes in. The more eyes on the prize the less likely someone is tempted to have itching fingers.

4.) Require more than one signature on all checks. It might be a hassle, but two signatures help keep everyone honest, especially if one of the signatures is a non-staff person.

5.) Yearly do a simple audit using an outside agency. A simple review is not that expensive, but having a yearly review might help you avoid anyone dipping their hand into the kitty.

6.) Every three to five years do an extensive audit. You can never be too careful. While more costly, an extensive review will help your members have the utmost confidence in your finances. I might add that I would do this every time a financial secretary leaves their position.

There is no guarantee that any of the above will keep you from a highly motivated, dishonest person—but it will help make it more difficult. Getting people to give to a church is hard enough as it is without a scandal; take steps now to avoid any hint of impropriety.

South Bend teacher accused of embezzlement in Indiana

South Bend Police are investigating a possible embezzlement case involving a teacher at Dickinson Intermediate Fine Arts Academy. The police report shows the case stems from money collected for the school's yearbook.
"There was some discrepancy about where the funds had landed so they filed a report for us to look into that and the case is very much in its infancy right now,” said Sergeant Ian McQueen of the South Bend Police Department.
The police report states the principal, Mr. Sims arranged for teacher Dan Santos to collect money for this year's yearbooks.
On May 21st the principal discovered that Santos had put the money into his personal bank account and there were no invoices or any other documentation of any sales.
The following day Santos returned with a personal check for $3416 to cover the entire cost of every yearbook ordered and also handed over $400 in cash.
But the school would not accept the check and decided to have the cops investigate. They filed the police report last Friday.
The South Bend School Corporation is not willing to issue a statement or speak about the matter.
Santos said he cannot comment because that is the police of the school district.
School board member Bill Sniadecki is wondering why school officials didn't inform the board about this case until Thursday.
"It's a little shocking to me that for one the board did not hear about this,” said Sniadecki.
Principal Sims ordered us off of the property while we were talking to parents and students who seemed to be defending Mr. Santos.
"I signed up for year book and he's a really, really, really nice teacher. And he is a good teacher too,” said Vinson.
South Bend Police say at this point they're not sure whether this case is a criminal or civil case.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

School staffer accused of embezzling; parents want changes in Virginia


Outcry in Richford over a Parent-Teacher Organization treasurer and teacher accused of embezzling thousands from PTO funds. Now some residents are calling for the woman's husband to resign from the school board.

Shawna Steinhour denied the embezzlement charges last week, but court records show her husband, who sits on the Richford School Board, may have had a hand in the money issues, too. Wally Steinhour is not facing any charges. That's something that's not sitting well with the PTO and some parents.

According to the board, Wally Steinhour has recused himself since his wife was accused of embezzlement. Some members of the PTO feel that's not enough.

"When somebody takes out a loan to cover up monies that have been stolen-- and they were stolen; it's a fact-- it just doesn't sit right with us," said PTO member Marie Destefano.

Some at the meeting called for Wally Steinhour to be fired since court documents revealed he took out a personal loan and used it to pay back the thousands of dollars his wife, Shawna, is accused of embezzling. She is both a first-grade teacher and elementary school PTO treasurer. Prosecutors say she used the money to shop online and go to the hair salon. Parents say if he tried to cover it up, he can't be trusted anymore.

"It was kind of slipped in there and none of us knew until we checked bank records," Destefano explained. "And that's where we found it a little under the table," she says of Steinhour's actions.

But Franklin Northeast Supervisory Union Superintendent Jay Nichols made it clear there's nothing anyone can do to remove Wally Steinhour from his position.

"From a legal perspective, any elected official or school board member is an elected official. Unless they resign or lose in the next election, they have a right to that seat," Nichols said at the meeting.

Technically, Wally Steinhour could resume his position at any time, but he wouldn't be allowed to take part in hearings about his wife's standing as an employee. She's on paid administrative leave.

Though Wally Steinhour's position is safe, the board could decide to fire Shawna Steinhour because she is an employee, not an elected official,  regardless of the outcome of the criminal charges.

"If they can prove just cause they can terminate an employee," Nichols explained. "The employee can be found innocent or guilty-- doesn't matter. The board still has the right to make that decision."

Wednesday night, in a closed-door executive session, the superintendent gave his recommendation to the board on what to do about Shawna Steinhour. The board could decide to keep her on paid administrative leave, to terminate her contract, to ask her to resign, or could return her to regular status. It's a process that will require hearings and could take quite some time. Wally Steinhour is not facing any criminal charges at this time.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Ex-administrator sentenced for church embezzlement in Indiana


A judge says a former administrator of a Muncie church was brazen in embezzling more than $130,000 over a nine-year period.

The judge sentenced 42-year-old Angela Renee Linder of Yorktown to 17 months in prison during a federal court hearing Tuesday in Indianapolis.

The Star Press reports Linder testified she suffers from bipolar disorder that caused her to go out of control with credit cards from Muncie's Union Chapel United Methodist Church.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Gayle Helart says Linder used the church's money for personal expenses ranging from trips and home renovation projects to fees at fertility and weight-loss clinics.

Linder called her actions "appalling and deeply wounding." She apologized to the church and her family for the shame she caused.

Just because an organization is a nonprofit doesn't mean it shouldn't be doing all it can to manage its finances. Especially for agencies that have more restrictive budgets and intend to provide their communities with services, it is critical that internal operations run smoothly to prevent crimes before they occur.
The Star Press reported that a former administrator at a Muncie, Indiana, church was recently sentenced to 17 months in prison on embezzlement charges. Angela Linder stole more than $130,000 from Muncie's Union Chapel United Methodist Church over the course of nine years. She is also required to pay $138,000 in restitution, split between the church and an insurance company that compensated the organization for its losses.
The news provider noted that Linder stole the funds using several credit cards in addition to checks from the church's accounts. The money was used for personal expenses, including home renovations, vacation trips, and visits to fertility and weight loss clinics.
According to Managing Your Church, there are a few major ways that nonprofits can prevent embezzlement from taking a toll on their ability to serve the public. First, it is key that employees are compensated fairly, as one reason workers may misappropriate funds is that they feel they are underpaid. Another important step to take is to make sure internal controls are well-managed, and this includes not leaving just one person in charge of money.
Additionally, using audit solutions is critical. The source explained that leaders should not underestimate the positive effect internal and external audits can have on a nonprofit establishment. External audits are valuable because experts may be able to catch wind of loopholes or compliance issues that employees might not initially notice, while internal audits can be performed more frequently by staff to make sure all procedures and policies are working correctly.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Kentucky Woman pleads guilty to theft from local groups, stole from youth teams, school organizations.

A former Perrysburg woman admitted in Wood County Common Pleas Court to stealing more than $110,000 from the bank accounts of school, community, and youth baseball groups and using the money on personal expenses and services.

Kiki Lorann, 36, who now lives in Tiffin, pleaded guilty Friday to four counts of grand theft and three counts of theft. When sentenced July 16 by Judge Robert Pollex, who handled her pleas to the felonies, she faces up to eight years in prison.

Assistant Prosecutor Tom Matuszak said she took the position of volunteer treasurer in six Perrysburg-area groups from 2010 to 2012. He said she had the authority to pay the legitimate expenses of the organizations, but instead misspent money in their accounts on personal items and services.

Two Perrysburg school groups sustained the largest financial loss from Lorann’s embezzlement: Perrysburg Elementary Parents Association lost $48,728, and Toth Parents Club had $43,793 taken from its account.

The other victims and the amount of money stolen are: Perrysburg Sting baseball team, $3,067; Perrysburg Gold travel baseball team, $9,944; Perrysburg Amateur Baseball and Softball Commission, $2,600, and Perrysburg Dirtbag baseball travel team, $1,915.

Mr. Matuszak said the thefts were carried out by Lorann writing checks on accounts held by the groups and purchasing personal goods and services on credit and debit cards. He said she often made interbank transfers of funds to conceal the fraudulent transactions.

The assistant prosecutor said representatives of the groups will be allowed to make victim-impact statements at the woman’s sentencing. He said he will ask Judge Pollex for a sentence that includes Lorann making restitution to the organizations. None of the organizations had representatives at the hearing.

Perrysburg Schools Superintendent Tom Hosler said the crimes committed by Lorann damage the trust of volunteers and parents who unselfishly give their time and money.

“I think that any time there is a theft like this, it really stirs and shakes the core group of people who have worked so hard to improve the quality of education and the experiences the kids have in the schools,” he said.

Mr. Hosler said that after learning about the embezzled funds the school district took steps to work with leaders of school support groups to improve financial accounting and ensure that there are safeguards to discourage theft.

Church duped by accused con man, sold in forced sale in Canada

A bad business deal between an evangelical pastor and an accused con man has cost the church’s congregation its church, school and daycare.
On Friday, a judge ordered the final sale of the Victory Christian Center at 11520 Ellerslie Road. The congregation will have to be out by the end of July.
The details of the sale, including the buyer, have been sealed pending closure of the deal — but court documents show the church and surrounding lands had an appraised value of between $6.6 million and $7.14 million.
Both the church and a second mortgage holder, Edmonton dentist Ram Singh, will receive nothing from the sale. The first mortgage holder, Romspen Investments, will receive the proceeds of the sale but will still lose about $8 million.
“This is a difficult case for everyone involved,” Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Julia Topolniski told the court. “It is difficult for the congregation, the children at the school, for the daycare, and for Dr. Singh.”
The Victory Church property had been originally listed for sale at $14 million. But Topolnitsky noted that the property had been on the market for 10 months, and a new appraisal had pegged its value at roughly half its original listed price.
“The market has spoken,” Topolnitsky said.
Court documents show Victory Church pastor Cal Switzer sold the Victory property to developer Kevyn Frederick in August 2008 for $18 million. Frederick transferred the land to a numbered company he controlled but did not register the mortgage, which would have guaranteed the property reverted back to the church if he did not make his payments.
The documents show Frederick made a down payment of $2.8 million but paid nothing more.
The property fell into foreclosure and eventually a judicial sale was ordered.
As part of the original deal, Frederick was supposed to provide the church with land in Leduc for a new church. But documents show he also reneged on that deal.
Court documents show Switzer inexplicably cut the deal with Frederick on behalf of the church without any independent legal advice.
Court records show Frederick has used numerous aliases including Kevin Sheldon Frederick, Kevin Ronald Frederick and Portia Frederick.
He is the subject of numerous legal proceedings related to real-estate deals in which he borrowed huge sums to finance purchases, only to have the deals collapse when he defaulted on mortgage payments.
One of those deals was for the Chateau Lacombe Hotel in downtown Edmonton. That deal collapsed after Frederick defaulted on the mortgage without making a single payment. Another deal, the Bellavera Green Condo development in Leduc, also collapsed.
The mortgage holder in the Chateau Lacombe deal — Romspen — slapped a $32 million mortgage on Frederick’s Victory church property in an attempt to recover some of its money.
Edmonton dentist Ram Singh also put a $10 million mortgage on the property in an attempt to recover the money he is owed on the Bellavera Condo deal. It was those creditors that forced the judicial sale of the Victory property.
Frederick is also being sued by resident owners of a Fort McMurray condo building after their reserve fund disappeared.
Court documents show Frederick borrowed nearly $1.7 million from an Edmonton bank to develop the Fort McMurray building, but defaulted on the loan leaving the condo in receivership. The lawsuit accuses Frederick of “embezzlement, unauthorized misappropriation and secret misdirection” of $268,000. The condo owners are now stuck with the future cost of maintenance and repairs.
The court heard today that no one has any idea where Frederick is and that he took interest in the sale of the Victory church property.

Ex-Minneapolis ELCA church bookkeeper charged with embezzling $235K

 A former Minneapolis bookkeeper was accused Friday of embezzling more than $235,000 from the Lutheran church over seven years.

Since 1996, Raenay Hendrickson, 50, of Brooklyn Park had been the bookkeeper for the Minneapolis Area Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, overseeing all its finances until she was dismissed last July. In a 2012 audit, according to the charges, the synod discovered the alleged embezzlement, reporting to police in March that she had written many unauthorized checks to herself, her creditors and others, falsifying records to hide the payments.

Hendrickson confessed when police met with her last month, admitting that she started falsifying records in 2005 and that she knew it was wrong, the Hennepin County criminal complaint said. Church records show she wrote $235,102 worth of unauthorized checks to herself from the church accounts from 2005 to 2012, spending $44,681 between May 2010 and July 2012, when she was dismissed. She’s charged with seven counts of theft by swindle, which are felony charges.

In a letter to the congregations, Bishop Ann Svennungsen said in February that leaders have added extra financial oversight as a result of the case. “We can assure congregants,” a statement from the synod reads, “that the diligent and improved financial oversight process, which detected the misappropriation of funds, is firmly in place, ensuring responsible stewardship of gifts to the church.”

According to charges, the synod discovered the alleged embezzlement in a 2012 audit.  They reported to the police that Hendrickson had written many unauthorized checks to herself, her creditors, and others.  She is also accused of falsifying records to hide the payments.  Hendrickson confessed when police met with her last month, admitting that she started this scheme in 2005 and knew that it was wrong.   Court records show that she wrote a total of $235,102 worth of unauthorized checks to herself from 2005 to 2012.  She spent a total of $44,681 between May 2010 and July 2012.

An attorney for the synod turned over records to Minneapolis police in March that revealed Hendrickson’s conduct, the complaint said.

The records showed the following, according to the complaint:

Checks to Hendrickson that appear as legitimate paychecks but were for higher amounts.
Checks made out to Hendrickson but recorded in the financial ledger as payments to other church employees.
Checks to Hendrickson or for her benefit appeared in the ledger as payments to vendors.
Hendrickson made payments to her family’s medical providers, which she recorded in the ledger as payments to her flexible spending account.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Embezzlement charges refiled against ex-Highland school clerk in Washington

Charges have been refiled against a former Highland School District clerk accused of embezzling funds from the district.

Staci Ann Fordahl, 41, of Yakima was arraigned Wednesday in Yakima County Superior Court on felony charges of first-degree theft and forgery. She appeared by summons and was released on her own recognizance.

Fordahl had worked as a purchasing agent for the Cowiche-based school district from 2007 to 2010, where her duties included handling funds and making deposits up to twice a week.

According to court records, Fordahl was fired in the summer of 2010 after she was accused of stealing up to $25,000 by removing cash from deposit bags and sometimes using checks to make up for cash shortages in other deposits.

The case was later dismissed without prejudice — meaning it could be refiled — after prosecutors said a more precise forensic accounting investigation by state auditors was ongoing.
In March, the State Auditor’s Office released a report that concluded nearly $9,700 in cash deposits was misappropriated from the school district.

The report said the missing cash was either not deposited or the deposits did not reconcile with receipts over a period of time from December 2008 to May 2010.

A total of $1,807 in checks also was not deposited, but the report said damaged bank records prevented a conclusion the checks had been misappropriated.

The report included a response from the school district, saying it agreed with the findings and that internal accounting controls have since been strengthened.

In addition to her job with the school district, Fordahl served as a member of the Tieton City Council for one term from 2005 to 2009

Ex-Ga. PTA president sentenced in embezzlement

The former president of an elementary school PTA and educational foundation has been sentenced to jail and probation for stealing at least $80,000 from the groups.

Fulton County District Attorney's spokeswoman Yvette Jones says 48-year-old Maryam Arjomand pleaded guilty Thursday to forgery and theft by taking.

Jones says Arjomand, of Atlanta, was the president of the E. Rivers Elementary School PTA and the E. Rivers Education foundation. Jones says the money was embezzled from both groups between 2010 and 2012.

Investigators found the money was diverted to an unauthorized account where Arjomand once worked.

Arjomand was sentenced to 10 years in prison and is ordered to serve 90 days in jail. Jones says Arjomand is ordered to serve the rest of her sentence on probation

Hanover,Virginia pastor linked to extortion plot charged with embezzlement

A Hanover County church pastor who was the target of an alleged $100,000 extortion plot has been charged with embezzling from his church.

Chris Allen Phillips, 50, was arrested Thursday night and released on a $6,000 personal recognizance bond; he is scheduled to make a court appearance June 5.

The arrest marks a new twist in a broad and ongoing investigation by Hanover authorities into a sex-for-money and extortion operation that is focusing on Tonya Farnsworth, 33. Farnsworth was arrested May 1 in Florida and last week was returned to Virginia, where she was charged with extorting Phillips.

She also faces a prostitution charge in Henrico County and multiple charges of failing to appear for court hearings.

Court documents show that Phillips helped Hanover investigators unravel a scheme in which he paid Farnsworth as much as $100,000 to keep secret a sexual encounter Phillips had with her last year. Farnsworth claimed the encounter was filmed, Phillips told investigators.

According to a search warrant, Hanover authorities taped statements between Phillips and Farnsworth in which she admitted receiving $100,000 from him.

It was not clear how investigators first learned of the alleged extortion plot, investigations of which are continuing through examinations of bank accounts and payments to Farnsworth, search warrants show.

“When the victim (Phillips) sent a message that he was worried about the pictures Farnsworth had of him, Farnsworth responded: ‘… and you should be,’ ” according to a search warrant.

But now Phillips is charged with taking $80,000 from the Hanover church where he had served as youth minister until recently.

An elder with Mechanicsville Advent Christian Church said this week that Phillips is on leave without pay but declined to comment further. Phillips lives in the 8000 block of Studley Road off U.S. 301, across from the church.

Phillips’ wife operates a licensed day care facility at the church. A campus of the Dominion School for Autism also is at the church, which has about 55 active members.

The dates of the church embezzlement align with the dates that Hanover investigators allege in a search warrant that a male victim of Farnsworth received instructions “five to seven days a week from early January 2013 to late March 2013” to place money in a black Lincoln Navigator.

The vehicle is still in the front yard of the home on West End Drive in Henrico where Farnsworth lived and where the liaison with Phillips occurred, according to the search warrant.

The extortion victim, identified as Phillips in Farnsworth’s arrest records, had encountered Farnsworth, posing as someone named Tiffany, on a website where she advertised to meet with men.

But after a Dec. 22, 2012, session that cost Phillips $200, according to a search warrant, Farnsworth accused Phillips of stealing from her and then told Phillips that pictures had been taken of their encounter.

Phillips began making payments to Farnsworth that he told investigators reached $100,000. Farnsworth was continuing to solicit payments as recently as April 22, according to a search warrant.

Farnsworth, who goes by several aliases, including Purington, has lived in the Yorktown area, and was known in Henrico’s West End for bidding on auctioned storage sheds.

On arrest documents, she lists $100,000 in unpaid medical bills and claimed no income.

Hanover investigators would not say whether additional arrests are imminent.
Advent Christian Church off Studley Road in Hanover held their first Sunday service since the arrest of their youth pastor on embezzlement charges.

Hanover Sheriff’s deputies arrested and charged Chris Phillips with felony embezzlement last week.  Deputies said Phillips embezzled $80,000 from the church, which only has about 50 members.

On Sunday, senior pastor at Advent Christian, Heath Simpson, told CBS 6 that Phillips has been suspended from his job as youth pastor.  Simpson declined to go on camera because of the ongoing investigation.

CBS 6 News found a listing for Chris Phillips to an address in Mechanicsville that sits directly next to Advent Christian Church.  No one answered the door when CBS 6 reporter Jake Burns dropped by Sunday.  A call to the phone number listed for the address was not returned.

Pastor Simpson said he could not confirm if Phillips lives there or if the home is owned by the church.

Things were pretty normal at Sunday’s service, Simpson said.  The pastor added he is “in pray and support for Chris [Phillips] and his family.”

“We all encounter issues in life,” said Simpson, “but God’s grace is bigger than those things.

CBS 6 legal expert Todd Stone says the potential punishment for embezzlement charges is up to 20 years in prison.

“This is church money; this is money people donated with the expectation that it was going to do some good for people; and then somebody converted it for their own use.  That’s the type of thing that makes it more aggravated in a judge’s mind,” said Stone.

 A pastor at Mechanicsville Advent Christian Church who is accused of embezzling thousands of dollars from his own church is now out of jail.

Chris Phillips has been released on his own recognizance. The embezzlement charge is all part of an ongoing investigation. A Henrico woman, Tonya Farnsworth, is accused of extorting money from Phillips after he paid her for sexual favors.

Another pastor at the church would not comment if Phillips still works there. He only said, "We are praying for the Phillips family," and would not give any more details.

Phillips is supposed to lead others in their faith, but Hanover investigators say Phillips led them to arrest Farnsworth. Investigators say she extorted him out of $100,000.

But Farnsworth wasn't the only person put in handcuffs. Police also arrested Phillips - they say he embezzled more than $80,000 from his own church.

Investigators will not say where that money went.

Investigators believe Phillips and Farnsworth met at her home on West End Drive. They say this is also where he would leave her money.

According to court documents, Phillips paid Farnsworth $200 for oral sex. In that report, Phillips says "…he observed someone filming the encounter or taking photographs."

For the next three months, according to court records, Farnsworth sent Phillips text messages threatening to release the pictures unless he paid her. It says threats happened almost daily.  The affidavit says Phillips actually worked with police to get Farnsworth to confess over text message. She tells him "...never trust anyone with your fantasy."

Pastor Phillips' next court date is set for June 5. Tonya Farnsworth is schedule to be back in court on Thursday.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Former Edgewood PTA president accused of theft in Texas

Roughly $1,800 dollars has been drained from the Loma Park Elementary School PTA fund and the PTA's former president, Fabian Ybarra, has been accused in the theft.

"We did these fundraisers, we did dances, the kids they paid -- I mean, we bought snacks so they can buy them and it turned out to be a big thing for the kids," said Loma Park Elementary School Treasurer Sylvia Gonzales. "I called the bank and we spoke to one of the managers and they said he had done the electronic. It went to his personal account."

According to Gonzales, Ybarra had not been carrying his weight recently.

She said he was asked to step down a couple months ago, but refused.

A short time later, money that was held in a joint school account reportedly had been transferred to his personal account.

"I don't have the details on what the investigation was, but apparently this individual admitted to taking those funds," said Edgewood ISD spokesman Roland Martinez.

The money was supposed to help fund field trips and the fifth graders' end-of-year banquet.

"We're just going do the best that we can and the principal said that they'll put in the rest whatever they need," Gonzales said.

Ybarra was removed as PTA president following the incident two months ago and Gonzales said she hasn't seen him since.

"Once this was brought to our attention, we worked with our district police and, subsequently, with the legal system to bring charges and recovery and closure to this incident," Martinez said.

Martinez reports the district has turned the case over to the Bexar County District Attorney's Office to recover the roughly $1,800 that is still missing from the PTA fund.

The KSAT Defenders left messages for Ybarra Wednesday afternoon that were not returned.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Embezzlement charges filed in Virginia Little League

 Amy Williams, 38, from Lawrenceville is charged with embezzling $200 or more from the Brunswick Dixie Youth League and $200 or more from Lawrenceville United Methodist Church. The charges were filed May 6. 
Chief E.L. Gibson with the Lawrenceville Police Department said Williams was the concession stand manager for fall ball for the Brunswick Dixie Youth League from July to November 2012. He said funds were unaccounted for bringing attention to Williams.
Gibson said some of the same people who serve on the Board of Directors for the Brunswick Dixie Youth League also are members of Lawrenceville United Methodist Church. The investigation led to Williams being charged.

Sergeant T. S. Vincent is investigating the case.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Church thief gets forgiveness from new church in Indiana.


For many East Central Indiana residents, the community’s churches — and other places of worship — are a welcome source of fellowship, inspiration and moral support.

But what does one do after allegedly stealing almost $200,000 from a local congregation?

One possibility is to find a new church.

Angela Renee Linder, a 42-year-old rural Yorktown resident, is set to be sentenced in nine days, in U.S. District Court in Indianapolis, over allegations she embezzled nearly $200,000 during the nine years she worked as an accounting administrator at Union Chapel United Methodist Church on Muncie’s north side.

The charge, wire fraud, carries a maximum 20-year prison term and $250,000 fine, but Linder’s sentence is certain to be far less severe than that, given that she and her attorney, Mark McKinney, have negotiated a plea deal with federal prosecutors.

In recent days, McKinney submitted nearly 50 letters of support for Linder to be considered by U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Walton Platt before she sentences Linder on May 28.

Several of the letters are from those who have attended church with the defendant, but not at Union Chapel.

Those letters come instead from members of the Yorktown Church of the Nazarene, where Linder and her family have worshiped in recent years.

The letters contain what are no doubt sincere endorsements of Linder as a caring wife, mother and Christian.

Some of the letters don’t address Linder’s misdeeds, or possible punishment, in any fashion. Others specifically refer to the possible sentence Judge Platt could impose, and describe the devastating impact the Yorktown woman’s incarceration would have on members of her household.

“I personally don’t think she should be taken away from her family for one stupid mistake,” one friend wrote the judge.

Prosecutors might suggest the theft of $200,000 over a period of several years, involving hundreds of individual misdeeds, could represent more than a single “mistake.”

The Yorktown church’s family pastor, Brian Couch, said Linder was “vigilant protecting” her family, “as much as possible, from societal harm.”

Senior Pastor George Ballard wrote that he believed Linder had made a sincere effort “to move her family forward by sitting with them and explaining her misguided deeds, and (she) has a tremendous repentant heart for anyone she has wronged.”

“With this, I believe that Angela is fully aware that there are consequences for errors, restitution for justice to be served, and a peace of knowing she is in God’s hands either way,” Ballard added.

Several of the letters — both from Yorktown Church of the Nazarene members and those who came to know Linder and her husband through their work with the fire department and ambulance crew in the Daleville area — note her founding of the “Children’s Fire Clothing Rescue,” providing replacement clothing for youngsters whose homes and belongings had been damaged by fire.

The congregation of Union Chapel United Methodist Church might deserve a shout-out for those efforts as well, for providing what local economic officials might call “seed money.”

Court documents suggest Linder set up her charity using stolen money that Union Chapel members had tithed to their own church.

The most poignant letters, perhaps, come from members of Linder’s family.

Her husband, Robert, asked Judge Platt to consider his wife’s service as an EMT, recalling one of her first calls, to an October 2007 accident on Interstate 69 that killed five members of an Amish family and injured 11 other people.

“I finally noticed that Angie was sick,” Linder wrote, apparently referring to the circumstances surrounding her alleged criminal activity. “After we got her help and in a therapy program, then I noticed just how sick and bad her illness is.

“She has changed with the daily medications she takes. I do know with my professional job that mental illness can be deadly.”

The letter doesn’t put a time frame on his discovery of his wife’s problems.

She worked at Union Chapel from February 2001 to March 2010, and is accused of using the church’s credit cards to pay for family vacations, home improvement projects, meals at various restaurants and medical expenses, and to buy items including clothing, wine, gasoline and cosmetics.

(Page 3 of 3)

According to U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett’s office, Angela Linder, in addition to drawing her regular salary, paid herself more than $54,000 between 2004 and 2006 — the year she married Brian Linder — by falsely listing herself as working at a community center associated with Union Chapel.

Authorities said Linder’s theft spree apparently began in 2003 and lasted until her employment at the Muncie church ended in 2010.

Letters, we get letters
Nearly every time a story concerning embezzlement appears, we receive communication from readers asking why we haven’t reported on accounts they’ve heard, usually through the grapevine, of money being stolen from local workplaces or organizations.

If the victims of those purported crimes have elected to not involve law enforcement in the resolution of their problems, such developments are far more likely to remain private — unless public funds are involved. And that’s hardly a coincidence.

Delaware County Prosecutor Jeffrey Arnold last week told The W/R Report he has yet to receive final reports from Indiana State Police on two ongoing theft investigations.

One involves the alleged embezzlement of funds from the Muncie Fraternal Order of Police lodge. The other focuses on the reported theft of more than $4,000 from a safe at the Delaware County Fairgrounds.

Senior Pastor George Ballard wrote that he believed Linder had made a sincere effort “to move her family forward by sitting with them and explaining her misguided deeds, and (she) has a tremendous repentant heart for anyone she has wronged.”

“With this, I believe that Angela is fully aware that there are consequences for errors, restitution for justice to be served, and a peace of knowing she is in God’s hands either way,” Ballard added.

Several of the letters — both from Yorktown Church of the Nazarene members and those who came to know Linder and her husband through their work with the fire department and ambulance crew in the Daleville area — note her founding of the “Children’s Fire Clothing Rescue,” providing replacement clothing for youngsters whose homes and belongings had been damaged by fire.

The congregation of Union Chapel United Methodist Church might deserve a shout-out for those efforts as well, for providing what local economic officials might call “seed money.”

Court documents suggest Linder set up her charity using stolen money that Union Chapel members had tithed to their own church.

The most poignant letters, perhaps, come from members of Linder’s family.

Her husband, Robert, asked Judge Platt to consider his wife’s service as an EMT, recalling one of her first calls, to an October 2007 accident on Interstate 69 that killed five members of an Amish family and injured 11 other people.

“I finally noticed that Angie was sick,” Linder wrote, apparently referring to the circumstances surrounding her alleged criminal activity. “After we got her help and in a therapy program, then I noticed just how sick and bad her illness is.

“She has changed with the daily medications she takes. I do know with my professional job that mental illness can be deadly.”

The letter doesn’t put a time frame on his discovery of his wife’s problems.

She worked at Union Chapel from February 2001 to March 2010, and is accused of using the church’s credit cards to pay for family vacations, home improvement projects, meals at various restaurants and medical expenses, and to buy items including clothing, wine, gasoline and cosmetics.

According to U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett’s office, Angela Linder, in addition to drawing her regular salary, paid herself more than $54,000 between 2004 and 2006 — the year she married Brian Linder — by falsely listing herself as working at a community center associated with Union Chapel.

Authorities said Linder’s theft spree apparently began in 2003 and lasted until her employment at the Muncie church ended in 2010.

Letters, we get letters
Nearly every time a story concerning embezzlement appears, we receive communication from readers asking why we haven’t reported on accounts they’ve heard, usually through the grapevine, of money being stolen from local workplaces or organizations.

If the victims of those purported crimes have elected to not involve law enforcement in the resolution of their problems, such developments are far more likely to remain private — unless public funds are involved. And that’s hardly a coincidence.

Delaware County Prosecutor Jeffrey Arnold last week told The W/R Report he has yet to receive final reports from Indiana State Police on two ongoing theft investigations.

One involves the alleged embezzlement of funds from the Muncie Fraternal Order of Police lodge. The other focuses on the reported theft of more than $4,000 from a safe at the Delaware County Fairgrounds.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Former Pontiac school superintendent reaches settlement in Michigan

A former superintendent of the financially troubled Pontiac School District who alleged he was fired for exposing fraud and misuse of school funds has agreed to a $100,000 settlement to drop his whistle-blower lawsuit.

Jonathan N. Brown, a former Pontiac athletic director and principal, was hired as interim superintendent in July 2011 and soon after launched an investigation into the management of school funds. He found the school district's deficit had doubled to about $25 million and the system was in danger of losing all state funding, according to his lawsuit, filed in Oakland Circuit Court in February 2012.

Brown claims he was fired in November 2011, less than two months after he reported suspected fraud and embezzlement to Michigan Department of Education officials, his attorney Deborah Gordon said Thursday.

"His contract was only for a year, so his actual damages are limited," said Gordon, explaining how she and attorneys for the school district agreed to an evaluation of damages by a three-attorney panel.

"We think this indicates his findings of serious problems in the district were correct."

Gordon said Brown faced retaliation after objecting to improper expenditures that were in violation of the school district's debt elimination plan. Among his concerns were allegations of unauthorized payments to staff; suspected misappropriation and overspending in several grant funding sources; contracts with vendors without proper approval; and misuse of district credit cards.

"His findings are still being investigated by state and federal agencies," said Gordon, who did not elaborate.

Attorneys hired by the school district and its insurance company would not comment Thursday.

A state report sent to district officials May 8 said the Pontiac district has a $37.7 million deficit and was in danger of missing payroll.

Late last week, the state agreed to release school aid funds after the district submitted a revised deficit cutting plan.

Meanwhile, the district's current superintendent, Brian Dougherty, tendered his resignation effective today, saying his job with the district "was not the right fit."

Dougherty is the second superintendent to leave since Brown was fired.

Bureau of Indian Education Employee Sentenced for Stealing Charity Funds Provided for Children Attending the Kaibeto Boarding School

Marcellina Tohonnie, 36, a Bureau of Indian Education employee, was sentenced on April 23, 2013 by U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Aspey in federal court in Flagstaff, AZ, for stealing charitable donations to children attending the Kaibeto Boarding School.  She received five years of supervised probation and was ordered to repay $23,226 in restitution to Children Incorporated – an international nonprofit organization assisting needy children in the U.S. and abroad.

            The charges stem from a U.S. Department of the Interior, Office of Inspector General investigation of Tohonnie’s embezzlement of Children Incorporated account funds, sponsoring 47 Native American students, grades kindergarten through 8th, at the Kaibeto Boarding School. As the school’s former Children Incorporated program coordinator, Tohonnie was entrusted with accepting and using donations to purchase basic necessities (e.g. clothing, school supplies, etc.) for the children enrolled in the program. Instead, Tohonnie embezzled approximately $25,000 from the Children Incorporated account to pay for personal expenses – including clothing, salon visits, gifts, car repairs, and travel to Las Vegas, Nev.

            “This case is a reflection of the Inspector General’s continued involvement in Indian Country and our dedication to insure the integrity of all U.S. Department of the Interior programs,” said Jack Rohmer, Special Agent-In-Charge.

            Children Incorporated U.S. Program Director RenĂ©e Kube said, “Children Incorporated serves over 20,000 children on an annual basis, and has assisted more than 250,000 children since our founding in 1964.  We provide these resources because we believe passionately that children everywhere deserve education, hope and opportunity. We are deeply grateful for the dedication, time and efforts given by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Office of the Inspector General.”

            Under a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Tohonnie pleaded guilty to one count of 18 USC '1163, embezzlement and theft from Indian tribal organizations.

            The investigation in this case was conducted by the U.S. Department of the Interior, Office of Inspector General.  This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Adam Zickerman, District of Arizona, Flagstaff.

State audits, system controls help prevent Minnesota school frauds

Taxpayers entrust their money to the public schools system and school districts take that responsibility very seriously.

But the system isn't perfect. So districts are constantly on alert.

Last week, a former La Crescent school employee was sentenced to a year in jail for embezzling money from the district.

Minnesota school districts have their finances audited each year.

CPA Earl Engelson said it's just a sample of the finances. If something doesn't seem right, accountants investigate further.

"It could have been an employee reimbursement that was paid out and it wasn't really a true reimbursement. But if you don't happen to pull that particular employee invoice or time record, you won't catch it," said Engelson, a CPA for Engelson & Associates, Ltd.

This means not everything is detected.

"You don't have the person who does the reconciling of the banks also in charge of the general ledger and also writing the checks. You're just inviting a fraud," he said. "You need other people involved to oversee."

All Minnesota school districts follow a set of controls outlines by the state. Yearly audits also check that those safeguards are in place.

When a public employee or public officer discovers evidence of theft, embezzlement, unlawful use of public funds or property, they have to immediately report to law enforcement and write to the state auditor, according to the Minnesota Office of the State Auditor.

The Office says there were four reported cases in 2007; 17 reported cases in 2012.

Minnesota has 399 independent school districts.

Attorney Cheryl Gill said as the economy goes down, fraud goes up.

"Public entities especially have to put in systems and controls that as far as possible prevent this from going on. There's no fool-proof way to do this," Gill said. "A smart embezzler will always get around the system. Always."

Gill, a partner with Johns, Flaherty & Collins, said when the books balance, theft is not easy to detect.

"You have to go behind the transaction to find the fraud," she said. "Any good embezzler or any good thief is always going to make detection difficult."

For a superintendent who dealt with a theft problem, Ron Wilke said eventually system controls will find it.

"We do have those controls in place to make sure it doesn't happen again," said Wilke, superintendent of the La Crescent-Hokah School District. "It's that whole piece of verify. Verify to trust."

After embezzlement cases, Healdsburg may launch new youth soccer league in California

With two of the presidents of the Healdsburg Youth Soccer League accused of embezzlement in the past three years, City Hall has stepped in to launch a new league through its Parks and Recreation department.

City officials said they want to ensure the sport continues to be offered to children in Healdsburg.

“Kids are the ones that suffer if you don’t have a program. That’s why the recreation department is taking it on,” City Manager Marjie Pettus said Friday.

She said the city has the support of the Youth Soccer League for “taking the program over.”

“It’s not like we’re snatching (it) out from under them,” Pettus said.

On Thursday, the day after soccer league president Mitzi Giron was arrested on suspicion of stealing more than $30,000 from the organization, the city announced it would offer recreational youth soccer leagues for boys and girls aged 4 to 10.

Sign-ups begin Monday with practices in August and games beginning in September.

“Once we got wind of what was going on we felt we needed to provide that service to our community. It looked like they weren’t able to do it,” Assistant City Manager David Mickaelian said Friday.

Giron, 30, is suspected of taking the money over an 18-month period. Healdsburg police say they believe she began withdrawing money from the league bank account for personal reasons, using an account debit card, beginning in July 2011.

That was one month before previous league president Kyle Hoffman was sentenced to nine months in jail for stealing $58,000 from the league.

The latest arrest stunned members of the community, not only because it involved another league president in such a short period of time, but because Giron was considered particularly devoted to soccer and coaching.

She played in the Healdsburg Youth Soccer League as a child and was active for years as a mentor, including a stint several years ago as coach of the high school girls junior varsity team.

“She was dedicated to the soccer community — that’s what’s shocking,” said Michelle Payne, a former league board member.

And safeguards supposedly had been been put into place after Hoffman’s theft, including that any checks written on the league bank account require signatures from at least two board members.

“Recommendations were put in place for the new board - a safety net — so it wouldn’t happen again. Those were not followed,” said Payne, who left the organization in late 2010 after Hoffman’s arrest. “I recommended an outside source for accounting too,” she said. “Obviously something went awry.”

As vice-president of the league in 2011, Giron, along with other members of the league board, sat through Hoffman’s courtroom appearances.

The league was brought to the brink of insolvency as a result of Hoffman’s pilfering, then rescued by community donations.

“She knew the efforts we all made to get us out of this mess he (Hoffman) got us into,” Payne said.

League officials went to police Tuesday with their suspicions of Giron. They had been attempting to get some of the money back before they contacted authorities.

Giron turned herself in to police Wednesday and was booked into Sonoma County Jail on charges of felony embezzlement and theft. She was released on $10,000 bail on the promise to appear at 8:30 a.m. Monday in Sonoma County Superior Court Dept. 9.

City officials said the arrest of two league presidents in such proximity made it doubtful the community would have come to the rescue a second time to keep the organization afloat.

“How do you go back and ask for help again?” said Mayor Susan Jones.

Members of the League board could not be reached for comment Friday and it was uncertain if they intend to disband entirely or attempt a comeback in future seasons.

The city will charge a $68 fee that includes a jersey and shorts. City staff will provide training opportunities and support to volunteer coaches.

Asked if the city will break even, Assistant City Manager Mickaelian said “it depends on how many sign up.” Last year, about 170 children participate in the soccer league.

“If we don’t break even this year, we will next,” he said.

Former school clerk sentenced in embezzlement in Ohio

A former Warren County Career Center clerk on Wednesday was placed on house arrest for 120 days and ordered to pay restitution of $4,753 she embezzled from the school.
Judge Robert Peeler also placed Teresa A. Lindsey, 47, of Wayne Twp., on probation for three years during a hearing in Warren County Common Pleas Court.

Assistant County Prosecutor John Arnold urged Peeler to send a cautionary message to others tempted to embezzle from schools or community groups by sending Lindsey to jail.

However Peeler said the sentence allowing Lindsey, a single mother, to care for her son and continue working two part-time jobs, was a better solution.

“Most people go to jail for these theft in office offenses,” Peeler said. “We have to send a message here.”

Lindsey admitted stealing the money while working as a clerk in the school’s adult education department and altering paper and computer records to cover the thefts. A change in bookkeeping systems at the school partially obscured the entirety of the embezzlement, Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell said.

The discrepancies were discovered in June 2012 after the new accounting system was set up at the school, north of Lebanon in Clearcreek Twp. Lindsey, a part-time worker for more than a decade, resigned the same month, school officials said.

At the hearing, Lindsey apologized and promised to never embezzle again. Convicted of tampering with records and theft in office, Lindsey is “forever disqualified from holding any public office, employment, or position of trust in this state,” according to court records.

Peeler barred her from returning to the school. Officials said additional safeguards had been added to prevent future embezzlement.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Former CVUSD transportation director to be sentenced for embezzlement in California

A former transportation director of the Coachella Valley Unified School District is scheduled to be sentenced this afternoon for misappropriating and embezzling district funds.

Raul Portillo Lopez, 57, was convicted last September of 25 felony counts of misappropriation of funds and one felony count of embezzlement. The Indio jury that convicted him also found true a sentence-enhancing allegation that the theft total exceeded $65,000.

His girlfriend, Clemencia Ochoa, who trained drivers for the district, was convicted in the same trial of three felony counts of grand theft in excess of $400 and one misdemeanor count of petty theft for signing time sheets for overtime she never worked. She was sentenced in October to three years probation.

The crimes took place between 2003 and 2007, according to the prosecution.

Lopez, who worked for the district for 25 years and as transportation director for the last 10, authorized more than $109,000 in payments for vehicle parts, but the money instead was paid to his own auto repair shop, according to Deputy District Attorney William Robinson.

Lopez also authorized payments of more than $75,000 to an auto body shop for bus repairs that were never done and gave the body shop's owner a cut of the money, and he approved more than $17,000 in fraudulent overtime pay for Ochoa, Robinson said.

Lopez, who was put on administrative leave in July 2007, started with the district in 1981 as a mechanic and worked various jobs in the transportation department. He was promoted to director in 1997, and was responsible for 100 employees and a nearly $7 million budget, Robinson said.

In the fall of 2006, district officials suspected the transportation department wasn't being run efficiently and hired a consultant, who "concluded there was mismanagement, at the very least," Robinson said.

Lopez resigned from the district in 2007 and Ochoa retired in 2010, according to the school district.

Ex-VCU professor facing prison time for embezzlement

A retired VCU Dental professor could spend 20 years in prison for stealing from a university organization.
James Hardigan pleaded guilty to embezzlement on Thursday.
Prosecutors said that during Hargigan’s tenure, he opened an investment account for the VCU Dental Faculty Practice Association without the group’s knowledge.
Hardigan is then accused of moving more than $100,000 of the group’s money into his personal account.
Hardigan’s sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 9.

St. Paul: Ex-archdiocese accountant accused of embezzling $670K pleads guilty

FROM TwinCities.Com -
 Cottage Grove man accused of stealing $670,000 from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has pleaded guilty to three felony counts of theft-by-swindle.
Scott Joseph Domeier, 51, also pleaded guilty Wednesday, May 15, to two counts of filing fraudulent tax returns.
Domeier worked as accounting director for the archdiocese.
The tax charges came after investigators found that he had failed to pay state income tax on the embezzled funds. The taxes he evaded from the tax years 2006 through 2011 totaled more than $48,000, according to a criminal complaint filed in November.
His attorney, Terry Duggins, declined to comment following the plea hearing in Ramsey County District Court.
Sentencing was scheduled for July 16. According to the plea agreement, Domeier faces more than three years in prison and will likely be ordered to pay full restitution to the archdiocese.
Domeier diverted archdiocese checks to pay personal credit-card bills, private-school tuition for his children and other personal expenses, according to the criminal charges.
The thefts date to 2008. He worked at the archdiocese from 1995 to January 2012. The archdiocese put him on leave Jan. 3, 2012, after he accepted first-class airline tickets to Hawaii from a vendor and misused the archdiocese's credit card issued to him.
The archdiocese reiterated in a statement Wednesday that the theft "will not affect the archdiocese's ability to meet its financial obligations or other responsibilities, including those to parishes, schools and employees.
"Insurance has covered most of the loss, and, per the recommendations of an independent forensic audit, several internal control enhancements have been implemented at the archdiocese," the statement said.

Singapore presses embezzlement case against church leaders

 Prosecutors Thursday pressed their case against leaders of a Singapore-based Christian church accused of embezzling millions of dollars to finance the singing career of the pastor's wife.
Alleged sham investments by the City Harvest Church -- a registered charity -- came under the spotlight as prosecutors questioned their first witness, Lai Baoting, the church's former assistant accountant.
Through Lai's testimony they tried to show that the church's finance manager and fund manager were involved in the investments.
The pastor and founder Kong Hee, 48, and five officers have been charged with varying degrees of involvement in a scheme to siphon off Sg$24 million ($19 million) to finance the singing career of his wife, who goes by the name Sun Ho in the music industry.
In addition, more than Sg$26 million in church money was allegedly misappropriated to cover up the original diversion.
Prosecutors at the start of the trial Wednesday said the accused channeled money allotted for the church's building into buying sham bond investments in church-linked companies so they could finance Ho's secular music career.
They allegedly falsified church accounts to make it appear the bonds were redeemed, in an elaborate scheme the prosecutors called "round-tripping".
"The transactions were thus designed to throw the auditors off the scent of the bogus bonds," said Deputy Public Prosecutor Mavis Chionh.
Chionh told the packed courtroom Wednesday the offences were "part of a deliberately planned, meticulously coordinated and carefully executed scheme which stretched over a period of time and involved the movement of millions of dollars".
Edwin Thong, one of the defence lawyers, said Thursday that an external auditor did not question the authenticity of the investments.
The six accused appeared light-hearted, whispering and smiling at some points during the hearing.
"Christian, remember the goodness of God in the frost of adversity," Kong tweeted after the court adjourned Thursday, quoting from 19th century British preacher Charles Spurgeon.
Scores of church members trooped to the court for a second day Thursday to lend their support, with some queuing from 4.30 am to ensure a seat.
The church, which has a membership of more than 30,000, has affiliates in neighbouring Malaysia and other countries.
It is known for services that resemble pop concerts and had assets estimated at more than Sg$100 million in 2009.
The pastor's wife, now in her early 40s, was hoping international stardom would help spread the church's message, according to previous reports in the Singapore media.
She had based herself in Hollywood while trying to break into the international music industry.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

6 Charged With Embezzling Millions From San Francisco Schools

Six current and former San Francisco school district employees were charged Tuesday with embezzling about $15 million in grant money from the district, officials said.

The suspects face multiple felony grand theft and embezzlement counts for diverting federal and state grant money into hidden slush fund accounts through several nonprofits over a 10-year period, district attorney George Gascon and San Francisco Unified Schools Superintendent Richard Carranza announced at a news conference.

A three-year investigation found the six suspects, including a former associate superintendent and two former senior executives, used about $250,000 for personal expenses and another $500,000 for unauthorized salaries and bonuses, officials said.

About $6.7 million of the grant money went toward educational purposes, but not for what was specifically intended, Gascon said. One of the nonprofits involved even risked $250,000 in the stock market and lost, he said.

The scheme occurred during a period when the district faced a $113 million deficit, had to give layoff notices to teachers, and summer programs were being reduced or slashed altogether, Gascon added.

"We had people that were in positions of trust that were taking money, who were diverting this money for personal use," Gascon said. "This is one of the worst kinds of corruption."

About $4.7 million of the grant money has been recovered. The nonprofits charged about $1.2 million in administrative fees during that period, Gascon said.

"We are mortified at the thought that trusted employees would conceive of such a scheme to divert funds from the children for whom they are intended," said Carranza, who participated in the district's probe in 2010 while he was a deputy superintendent.

Those facing charges include former associate superintendent Trish Bascom; former senior executive directors Linda Sue Lovelace and Meyla Ruwin; former principal administrative analyst Lilian Capuli; former assistant principal Mychel Navales and Betty Wong, a typist.

The suspects were expected to turn themselves in by Wednesday and could be arraigned as early as Thursday, prosecutors said. The investigation is ongoing.

Gascon said Bascom was the ringleader of the scheme as she had primary control over money distributed to the nonprofits hired to provide services for the district. At times, the nonprofit would write checks to individuals who allegedly would put them into their personal banking accounts.

"They would request funding for certain things and the checks would be made out to them personally," Gascon said. "They had complete control."

Bascom's lawyer, Stuart Hanlon, said his client was head of the district's Student Support Services and was instrumental in aiding gay and lesbian youth and afterschool programs for impoverished youth.

"What they are alleging is that she created a slush fund. She didn't. I don't know what they are alleging," Hanlon said. "The Trish Bascom I know is an honest, hard-working woman who has devoted her life to the children of San Francisco.

"I don't know if any of these women are guilty," Hanlon continued. "You are presumed innocent until proven guilty. You don't convict people through the press. We'll see what the evidence shows."

Efforts to reach suspects and other attorneys were not immediately successful.

One of the nonprofits, the San Francisco School Alliance, took in between $5.5 and $6.3 million and charged a half-million dollars in administrative fees, Gascon said. The nonprofit even ventured $250,000 in the stock market and lost, he added.

A call to Terry Bergeson, executive director of the alliance, was not immediately returned.

While the other two nonprofits involved have returned more than $4 million, San Francisco School Alliance has not returned any money yet, Gascon said.

"If someone came and gave you $4-5 million in your account, and they will tell you when to use it and for you to take an administrative fee without a clear definition of what that money is being used for, that should raise some concerns," Gascon said. "We're definitely concerned about that."


Lansing woman headed toward trial for alleged embezzlement from Waverly youth football program


A Lansing woman took a step toward trial on charges from her alleged embezzlement of thousands of dollars from a youth football program.

Celeste Foster, 39, waived preliminary examination in Eaton County District Court last week, according to a court clerk. Her waiver automatically bound her case over to circuit court for trial.

Foster is charged with embezzlement over $1,000 from a nonprofit and multiple counts of writing bad checks. She was the treasurer of the Waverly Junior Warriors Football program from October 2011 to October 2012 when, authorities say, she stole more than $17,000 from the organization.

The program is a youth football organization offerred to fourth- through eighth-grade students in the Waverly Community Schools district.

Foster bonded out of the Eaton County Jail, according to officials. She faces up to five years in prison and a fine up to three times the amount she allegedly embezzled.

No further court date has been set

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Teachers union treasurer arrested in alleged embezzlement in California

The treasurer of the Redding branch for the California Teachers Association was arrested today on suspicion of embezzlement, authorities said.

Redding police identified the treasurer as Ronda Jean Mackey-Fish, 54, an Anderson resident and teacher at Pacheco School.

Police said they were contacted by the Redding Service Center Council regarding a possible embezzlement. During the investigation over the past year, detectives determined more than $18,000 had been embezzled.

Shasta County Superior Court on Thursday issued a felony arrest warrant for embezzlement for Mackey-Fish, said police, making the arrest the following day at her home.

She was booked at the Shasta County jail and is being held on $25,000 bail.

Former Carterville, Illinois school official indicted on embezzlement charges

A former Carterville school official was indicted Friday on embezzlement and other charges.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigations, Springfield division, Todd Ryan Frazier, 30, of Grand Rapids, Michigan, was indicted by a grand jury on Friday and charged in a 16-count indictment.

US Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, Stephen R. Wigginton, announced that Frazier was indicted on the following 16-counts:

-Counts 1—3, embezzlement and theft from the Carterville School District—a unit of local    government that received federal funds

-Counts 4—13, wire fraud in furtherance of a scheme to defraud the Carterville School District

-Count 14, false statements to the Federal Bureau of Investigation

-Count 15, attempting to access a computer of a financial institution without authorization

-Count 16, uttering a forged check of the Carterville School District

The FBI says Frazier defrauded the Carterville School District between August and February 2012.

Frazier was the treasurer and payroll officer for the district.

Frazier reportedly also lied to the FBI and said that had not taken money from the district, or made false entries in the payroll system.

The offenses each carry a total statutory maximum sentence of up to 250 years in prison, a fine of up to $3,400,000 and mandatory restitution

Friday, May 10, 2013

Former PTA Official Jailed After Failure to Repay Funds in New York


Still owing more than $17,000 to the Parent-Teacher Association she stole from for two years, Providence Hogan, a former PTA treasurer at Public School 29 in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, was taken back into custody on Wednesday after she failed to make scheduled payments.

Ms. Hogan pleaded guilty in 2011 to embezzling $82,000 while she was the treasurer of the PTA, which serves one of Brooklyn’s most sought-after elementary schools. She used the money to help shore up her failing Boerum Hill spa business in Brooklyn, cover her rent and pay for fertility treatments. As part of a plea agreement, she returned $50,000 in 2011 and has since paid back more in installments, but is still short about $17,700, according to the Brooklyn district attorney’s office.

“The judge felt that she would come up with the money if she was in jail,” Ms. Hogan’s lawyer, Stephen Flamhaft, said.

He said Ms. Hogan would be released next week. Ms. Hogan could still face the full sentence of two to six years if she does not make the full reimbursement by January 2014. Even if she does, she will be on probation for five years.

It is the latest episode in a story that has left scars on both Ms. Hogan and the P.S. 29 community.

Ms. Hogan filed for bankruptcy in January, the same month she closed her business, Providence Day Spa, blaming the bad economy. The PTA has asked the bankruptcy court not to eliminate her remaining debt to the group. Maura Sheehy, one of the presidents of the PTA, said the remaining $17,000 could be used for a variety of purposes, like professional development for teachers, arts enrichment or simply softening the impact of more than $1 million in budget cuts the school has faced over the past five years.

The $17,000 is roughly equivalent to the salary of an assistant kindergarten teacher, she said. The PTA collected about $200,000 in donations last year, according to tax records.

Mr. Flamhaft, referring to the other P.S. 29 parents as “parasites,” said he believed they had “no compassion.”

“They’re taking advantage of a downtrodden woman,” he added, “who’s battered and sullied by many things that went on in her life.”

Since pleading guilty, Ms. Hogan, whose daughter was in fourth grade at P.S. 29 at the time of her arrest, has been divorced and has suffered from what Mr. Flamhaft called “severe illnesses, womanly illnesses” that left her “on her deathbed.”

Told of Mr. Flamhaft’s comments, Ms. Sheehy said, “I think people hold a wide range of feelings about the situation, including an enormous amount of sympathy for Ms. Hogan’s tragic situation.”

In a blog post on her spa’s Web site, Ms. Hogan wrote: “Some transitions were not so wonderful. Illness, loss and complicated times.”

ENMU staffer charge with embezzling in New Mexico


 An employee at Eastern New Mexico University in Portales is accused of embezzling from the college.
Authorities allege Jeremy Phillippi, 26, embezzled at least $15,000 by using a university purchasing card for personal hotel stays and gifts.
Phillippi worked in the math department and as a science fair coordinator.
Phillippi is also charged with forgery because he allegedly forged his supervisor's signature on receipts so they wouldn't be flagged in the school's financial department.
It didn't work.
Authorities say they're still doing an audit to determine if more money was stolen. If so more charges will be filed

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Turner sentenced in embezzlement case in Wisconsin


An Onalaska woman is going to jail for embezzling money from the La Crescent-Hokah School District to feed a gambling addiction.
Mary Chris Turner told police she took the school's credit card to get cash from an ATM to gamble.
She was the accounts payable clerk for the district.
From 2008 to 2012, turner stole $416,000 from the district.  But, the district said the full amount lost is closer to $540,000, if you consider their extra costs like attorney fees.
Before sentencing, Sam Jandt, La Crescent-Hokah School Board Chair, told the court, Turner's crime affected the district more than just financially.  It damaged the trust tax payers have in the district.
Jandt said students are the real victims because they had fewer resources available for their education.
Turner's attorney said this could have been avoided, or she could have been caught sooner, if the district had adequate safe guards in place.
But the district said the accounting standards they have in place are approved by the state; Turner just knew how to get around them.
Turner apologized to the district and said she is getting help for her gambling addiction.
But, the judge sentenced her to the maximum one year in jail and she must pay $292, 671 in restitution to the district.
"I do think it was very fair," Jamie Hammell Houston County District Attorney said. "She does have some assets that we are able to have paid over to the district. And I do feel that the one year time in jail is very fair for her. She doesn't have a criminal history at all."
Her lawyer said paying the restitution wipes out her entire pension and life savings.
Turner was sentenced to twenty years of probation, but, if she pays back her restitution in five years, her probation will be reduced to five years.
Turner's lawyer said she has been diagnosed as a pathological gambler and is currently being treated for her addiction.

Former Collettsville, North Carolina School Secretary Charged with Embezzlement


38-year-old Emily Yvonne Hawkins of Walt Arney Road in Lenoir was arrested by Caldwell Co. Sheriff’s Officers yesterday (May 8) on ten counts of embezzlement by a public officer or trustee.

Hawkins had been employed as the lead secretary at the Collettsville School on Collettsville Road in Collettsville.  She held the position from July 26, 2010 to March 26, 2013.

Events leading to her arrest began when administrators with Caldwell County Schools conducted an internal investigation regarding the discovery of questionable purchases.  That investigation raised additional concerns regarding unauthorized purchases made by Hawkins.  Her employment was immediately terminated.

On March 26, the Sheriff’s Office received a call from the Caldwell Co. Education Center regarding the embezzlement of school funds.  The exact amount allegedly taken by Hawkins is still being calculated, but it is estimated to be in excess of $40,000.

Hawkins was taken before the Magistrate and given a $100,000 secured bond.  She has since been released from custody.  A first appearance in District Court was set for today in Lenoir

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Violet woman arrested in church embezzlement works for St. Bernard finance department in Louisiana


She has no contact with contracts, money, checks... It's just paperwork." -- President Dave Peralta
A Violet woman accused of stealing more than $100,000 from the church where she worked is employed by the St. Bernard Parish government's finance department and will remain there. Parish President Dave Peralta confirmed the woman's status with the parish on Wednesday, but said Trinette Johnson is in a clerical position and does not work with cash or checks.

Johnson, 39, surrendered on April 19 to the parish jail after learning that a judge had signed a warrant for her arrest on a felony theft charge, according to the St. Bernard Parish Sheriff's Office. She is accused of embezzling money from the church since 2006.

Peralta said Johnson manages project worksheets for the parish's FEMA projects and her salary is paid through FEMA funds.

"It's just processing invoices and stuff like that," Peralta said. "She has no contact with contracts, money, checks. It's just paperwork. It's an office position, a clerical position, that is all."

Peralta said that Johnson is one of five people who is a full-time parish employee assigned as a liaison with CDM Smith, which is contracted to manage recovery projects.

Peralta said the parish checked over Johnson's work after her arrest "and everything looked fine."

He said if she is convicted of the felony theft charge, "I would conduct an internal investigation in regards to the conviction and then determine whether to let her go.

"It's an accusation at this time," Peralta said. "Until there is a disposition in the courts, I am not taking any action. It is not part of government. If this were a part of government, it would be different."

The Sheriff's Office opened its investigation into the church embezzlement case after being asked to do so by church officials, the Sheriff's Office said last month.

Johnson was a longtime secretary and account executive for the Greater Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church, 1904 Goodwill Drive in Violet, according to the Sheriff's Office. The church discovered that money was missing after a financial audit. The church's board of trustees reviewed the report from the auditing firm and alleged that Johnson had misappropriated $101,872 in church funds since Aug. 16, 2006, according to the Sheriff's Office.

In February, the Sheriff's Office was presented with a letter signed by 33 members of the church that said the church wanted to pursue criminal charges in the matter. The church also handed over bank records going back to March 2006 and information that a forensic specialist with a CPA firm had been retained to identify the suspected theft of church funds.

Johnson currently is out of jail on a $10,000 bond, the Sheriff's Office confirmed on Wednesday.

Former Gilroy school board member charged with embezzlement, perjury


 A former Gilroy school board member already accused of bilking a charity out of tens of thousands of dollars is now being charged with using campaign donations for personal use and lying about it on official forms.

The Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office on Tuesday announced four new counts against Francisco Dominguez: grand theft and three perjury charges related to his successful board run in 2010.

According to prosecutor John Chase, Dominguez, 51, used about half of $6,000 in donations for nonpolitical purposes. More than $1,700 was transferred to his personal accounts, $300 cash was withdrawn, and the rest consisted of purchases made with the campaign debit card.

"I'm sure the people who contributed to Mr. Dominguez' last school board campaign never expected their money would be used on such things as a car smog inspection or concessions at Dodger Stadium," said Chase, who heads the district attorney's public integrity unit.

Chase said that when investigators looked at campaign statements over three months they saw "a total of maybe nine" reported expenditures, all in large amounts. But bank records showed close to 100 expenses charged to the card.

That included dozens of small bills at restaurants, bagel shops and cafes, many in Southern California.

"I could potentially understand a restaurant charge if it was hundreds of dollars for taking out campaign consultants," Chase said. "But many were less than $10, sometimes less than $4."

Chase said the questions arose while his office was investigating last year's charges, in which Dominguez is accused of overbilling South County Collaborative between $10,000 and $50,000 for work he was supposed to be doing with a drug-aversion program for kids.

Other charges filed in October involve Dominguez's work for engineering firm Parsons Corp., which Chase said was defrauded to the tune of $6,000.

Those cases are still pending and may be combined with the new charges, Chase said.

"There's some commonality," Chase said. "I'd say lying is the common element."

Dominguez, who also served on school boards in San Jose and Oxnard, was arrested last week and is out on bail. His attorney in last year's matter could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

His maximum sentence if convicted on all the new charges is six years and eight months in jail.

Glenkirk, Virginia Elementary PTO treasurer charged with embezzlement


The treasurer of Glenkirk Elementary School’s Parent Teacher Organization has been charged with embezzlement, after police said she used PTO funds to buy things for herself.
Police began investigating the treasurer, Sabrina Ann Corra-Reynolds, on April 15, after school division officials noticed “discrepancies” in the PTO account, Prince William police spokesman Jonathan Perok said.
Police said the school’s PTO is “an unincorporated association” made up of parents, guardians and grandparents of students as well as school staff members. PTO funds are raised through fundraisers and donations and are not considered school funds, police said.
Police said Corra-Reynolds used PTO funds to make personal purchases, including renting a vehicle and buying a child’s dresser. The alleged unauthorized purchases were made between Dec. 11 and April 16 and totaled about $2,200, Perok said.
Corray-Reynolds, 35, of 16098 Sheringham Way in Gainesville, was arrested Monday and charged with two counts of embezzlement. She has a court date on July 7 and information about bond was not available Tuesday.

Apology to Mr. David Harris

Dear Mr. Harris,

I apologize for the use of your original article on my blog. .I did not retweet the article but utilized it as my original content on my blog.  The blog post has been deleted after 16 views.


Terrence Rice

Monday, May 6, 2013

Six tips for Non Profit Board Members: protect your nonprofit against embezzlement

"I was responsible for all the finances, paying all the bills, all the invoicing. Everything that came in went through me. …I had so much control over my own Board of Directors because they had so much trust in me, that I was able to do basically what I wanted to do.”

These are the words of a woman who embezzled over $100,000 from a non-profit organization, spoken during an interview while she was in residence at the South Boise Women’s Correctional Facility.

Non-profits and religious organizations combined account for approximately 16.5 percent of all embezzlement incidents – an increase compared to our prior years, according to The 2011 Marquet Report on Embezzlement. The report also states that Non-profits ranked #2 in the amount of embezzlement losses, behind the financial services sector, which means non-profits beat out healthcare, manufacturing, real estate, government and all the other industry categories.

Idaho ranks seventh in risk of embezzlement according to the 2011 Marquet Report on Embezzlement. Does this mean Idaho has a higher number of criminally inclined residents? Probably not the propensity for theft is high in our state because of the prevalence of small organizations. Small organizations tend to be vulnerable to embezzlement because they have fewer checks and balances in place.

Nonprofits as diverse as homeowners associations, youth athletic associations, medical facilities, foundations, and libraries share common characteristics that increase the risk of being victimized by a trusted employee with a faulty moral compass:

1. They are governed by volunteer board members who have fiduciary responsibility for safeguarding the organization’s assets.

2. Only one or two people have access to and control of credit cards, bank accounts, tax filings and financial reports.

3. There is little financial oversight other than reports presented at board meetings.

Most states have laws, regulations and expectations that define the fiduciary responsibility of board members. The State of Idaho Office of the Attorney General has published a guide, Service on an Idaho Nonprofit Board of Directors, which emphasizes the fiduciary duty of board members. According to the guide, board members have three responsibilities under a duty of trust: duties of care, loyalty and obedience. Board members must:

1. Act with common sense and informed judgment;

2. Act with undivided allegiance to the organization (i.e., avoid conflicts of interest);

3. Institute proper financial controls to secure the organization’s assets and records; and

4. Abide by the organization’s bylaws and policies, as well as federal and state laws and regulations.

Click here for a list of other States' non-profit information.

Here are six tips board members can use to comply with these duties of trust. Together these tips help a nonprofit establish and maintain accountable and transparent processes.

1. Hold a formal orientation for new board members covering the organization’s mission and charitable purpose, bylaws and other governing documents, laws and regulations, code of ethics, fiduciary responsibilities, conflicts of interest, past financial results and current budget.

2. Develop a code of ethics and have each board member, employee and volunteer read and sign it annually. A code of ethics is a statement of values and principles that defines expectations for proper behavior. It sets the tone for accountability and transparency and provides direction on reporting illegal, unethical or improper behavior. A good rule of thumb is to keep it simple and memorable. Also, promote your organizations values – discuss them at meetings, hang posters, publicly recognize and celebrate employees and volunteers which exemplify these values.

3. Conduct background checks and criminal history checks on final candidates for leadership positions. Conduct a credit check on key individuals responsible for finances. Use a reputable service provider to conduct these checks to assure compliance with relevant laws and regulations. About 5% of embezzlers have a prior criminal history. They may be few in number, but they are high in risk potential. Criminal history checks are a cost effective means of protecting your organization.

4. Develop written policies and procedures that define access to bank accounts, check signing authority, financial reporting standards, and oversight responsibility and expectations. A would-be embezzler is motivated to act if she perceives that her scheme is likely to go unnoticed. Conduct periodic compliance reviews to assure that employees and volunteers are following approved processes.

One of the best fraud deterrents is unscheduled reviews by a trained financial professional. If accounting staff knows someone will be dropping by unannounced to review their work in detail, they are far less likely to indulge in immoral shenanigans. Many schemes used by embezzlers are simple – forging signatures on checks, paying personal expenses with company funds, charging personal expenses to organization credit cards. These types of schemes can be detected by a simple review of bank statements and cancelled checks.

5. Obtain proper insurance coverage. Embezzlement can never be completely prevented, and board members sometimes make errors in judgment. To protect the organization and board members, obtain fidelity insurance coverage and directors and officers (D&O) coverage.

6. Embezzlement is easy to engage in and easy to hide when one person has complete control of accounting records. Separate duties so no one controls a transaction from beginning to end. Use your accounting system to enforce separation of job duties. Give users only the rights they need to do their jobs – and no more.

Don’t confuse internal controls with mistrust. The top executives in any non-profit – especially those trained in accounting and finance – know that internal controls protect employees, volunteers and board members. No organization wants to deal with the reputation fall out of embezzlement by a trusted employee. Protect your organization from becoming a victim by instituting accountable and transparent financial processes.

Nonprofit organizations are invaluable to the causes they support. Board members should be knowledgeable of their duties and obligations and insist on accountability and transparency in all aspects of the organizations for which they serve as fiduciary. Excessive or misplaced trust on the part of board members can usurp an organization’s mission and assets. Trust, but verify.