Sunday, June 30, 2013

Eagle, Wisconsin woman accused of stealing money from Cub Scouts

A 35-year-old woman was charged Thursday in Waukesha County Circuit Court with three counts of misdemeanor theft, allegedly using a Eagle Cub Scout troop’s debit card to purchase $3,565 worth of gas, food and groceries in 2011.

According to the criminal complaint, Village of Eagle Police were first made aware of the accusation in July 2012, when Chairman Michael Flatow of Eagle Cub Scout Pack 54 reported suspicious activity on the troop’s account.

Flatow told police that Rachael M. Schneider, an assistant to the troop, had used the card for personal use between October and December 2011, the complaint reads.

In a little over two months, Flatow claimed Schneider had spent $1,301 at Walmart, $308 at Farm and Fleet and $349 at Pick N’ Save, according to the complaint.

Schneider admitted in a statement to police that she had used the Boy Scouts’ card for personal use and said she had paid the troop back in full, the complaint reads.

Flatow said that the troop has since increased security for how debit cards are handled, but would prefer not to discuss the issue.

Schneider could face up to a year and a half in prison and $30,000 in fines if convicted.

She is expected to make an initial appearance in court on July 22.

Former Duke researcher charged with embezzlement has a paper retracted

A new retraction notice in the Journal of Applied Physiology gives only a hint at the problems in the paper, but what it does say has led us to a story about one of its co-authors.

Here’s the notice, from a team at Duke:

Auten RL, Mason SN, Potts-Kant EN, Chitano P, Foster WM. Early life ozone exposure induces adult murine airway hyperresponsiveness through Effects on airway permeability. J Appl Physiol; doi:10.1152/japplphysiol.01368.2012.—After publication of the Articles in PresS version of this article, the authors became aware that the primary data used to calculate the in vivo pulmonary mechanics results were inconsistent with the machine-generated raw data, making the data presented in Figure 2 unreliable. We offer our formal apologies for this error and for any inconvenience associated with the publication of the article. The paper is therefore being retracted by the American Physiological Society at the request of Dr. Auten and with the approval of the co-uthors.

Please note that an effort was made to contact all authors. However, a response was not received from E.N. Potts-Kant.

Potts-Kant is Erin Nicole Potts-Kant, who is apparently no longer working at Duke. She may have bigger concerns than a retraction, however. In late March, about a week before the retraction notice appeared online, she was arrested on embezzlement charges. As The Herald Sun reported:

The charges stem from the alleged misuse of Duke University procurement cards that were in her name while she was an employee of the Duke University Health System.

She allegedly used the cards for $14,616.34 in merchandise from, Target, Walmart, and TigerDirect between Dec. 12, 2008, and Nov. 6, 2012.

Potts-Kant was released on $10,000 bail. She also holds a U.S. patent along with some of her former Duke colleagues, for a way to treat lung disease.

We’ve contacted the corresponding author of the paper for more details about how these errors came to the team’s attention, and asked Duke about the status of the case

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Man Siphons Thousands From San Jose PTA

A San Jose parent has been charged with siphoning thousands of dollars out of Lynhaven Elementary School’s PTA fund.

Keith Michael Dennis, 44, was the volunteer financial secretary at the school from 2009 to 2012.

Santa Clara County prosecutors say he illegally got ahold of the PTA funds by forging checks to reimburse himself for expenses for fictional fundraisers and field trips.

The forged checks “reimbursed” Dennis for expenses as a printer, cookie dough fundraiser, and school logo clothing, when he was due no such reimbursement, according to prosecutors.

In one case, prosecutors said Dennis was supposed to have deposited hundreds in cash to the PTA’s bank account, but the actual deposit was $16.

“Mr. Dennis is alleged to have abused the trust of the Lynhaven PTA and pocketed money intended to benefit its young students,” prosecutor Judy Lee said.

He surrendered to police Wednesday.

The criminal investigation started last year when a school auditor forwarded to police a report detailing thousands in missing money and its suspicions of Dennis’s thefts. Prosecutors charged Dennis with grand theft, embezzlement and two counts of forgery.

The money he is accused of stealing was intended to help fund student activities.

Dennis is a parent of Lynhaven students and had been employed by the school as a substitute teacher in the past, according to prosecutors.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Spokane Police Forward Charges In The Inland Empire Youth Soccer Association Embezzlement Case

PRESS RELEASE FROM THE SPOKANE POLICE DEPT: The Spokane Police Department Fraud Unit sent a charging request to the prosecutor's office this week charging 43-year-old Shawn Meese with 1 count of 1st degree Theft and 14 Counts of Money Laundering stemming from an investigation that involved Meese embezzling nearly $140,000 from the Inland Empire Youth Soccer Association over a year and a half, which nearly bankrupted the organization.

The Spokane Police thoroughly investigated the reports received in this case and the Spokane County will file the charges on Friday (6/28/13).

After noticing discrepancies in financial statements, starting around June 2011, employees from the Youth Soccer Association started investigating their accounts and found that funds had been siphoned from two different Soccer Association bank accounts, without permission, into personal bank accounts belonging to Shawn Meese.

They also found that direct transfers from one of the Youth Soccer Association accounts were made into Shawn Meese's personal bank accounts. Shawn Meese allegedly also wrote checks to himself and may have paid off personal credit card debt with the Associations moneys, according investigation records. The Soccer Association made a report to Spokane Police Department and Detectives from the Fraud Unit started their investigation.

During the investigation, detectives executed two series of search warrants. The first series, which included 7 search warrants, seized funds from Meese's personal financial institutions and obtained account statements and other account information.

The second series of warrants were executed to search Meese's residence, vehicles and other property that detectives found in which he had allegedly utilized stolen or tainted money to pay for. Detectives seized two vehicles, a GMC Yukon and a Chevrolet Equinox. They found receipts for firearms and jewelry which were paid for through his tainted bank account.

The detectives seized the property, which had been paid for through the stolen money, to help pay back some of the money stolen from the Association. Detectives recommended charges 1st Theft (1 count) and Money Laundering (14 counts) to the prosecutor's office. The Spokane County Prosecutor's Office will file the charges on Friday (6/28/13).


The IEYSA Board of Directors would like to express our appreciation on the professionalism and hard work shown by the Spokane Police Department in helping bring this case closer to resolution and we will continue to fully cooperate with our local authorities as necessary.

We would also like to thank our sponsors, our parent organization Washington Youth Soccer, and most importantly our members for the outpouring of support shown to us during this time.

Despite recent events, IEYSA remains fiscally strong in its ability to provide quality, fun, soccer programs for its kids without interruption and will continue working with the soccer community and our partners to improve our organization and grow towards being the best soccer choice for kids in the Spokane area.


IEYSA Board of Directors

Auburn, New York Teachers Association embezzlement investigation complete

 Auburn police have finished their investigation into the embezzlement of more than $800,000 from the Auburn Teachers Association.

Police suspect the funds were taken between January 2006 and November 2012 by the union's former president, Sally Jo Widmer, who later died. They say Widmer used the money to pay personal bills and credit cards and also wrote checks to herself. They do not believe anyone else was involved in the theft.

A new union leader was elected in June 2012 and found the discrepancies in the funds.

Guilty plea in Middletown embezzlement case in Virginia

A Middletown man took money from the high school's sports boosters program to pay personal business expenses, prosecutors said Monday.
Charles Edward Staley, 51, pleaded guilty to one count of theft less than $1,000 from the Middletown High School Sports Club Inc.

Before entering his plea Monday, Staley paid $22,714 in restitution to the organization as part of the plea agreement, Assistant State's Attorney Erin Pearl said.
Staley is the former vice president of the group, which provides support to the sports programs at Middletown High.
He will be sentenced on the charge, which carries a maximum penalty of 18 months in jail and a $500 fine, on April 30. Staley's defense attorney, Paul Kemp, will ask for probation before judgment at the hearing. Pearl said she will leave that decision to the judge.
If the case had gone to trial, prosecutors believe they could have proved that Staley made several personal payments using the money from the group's account for concession sales, which he managed.
In August 2012, board members began to believe money was missing from the account. A subsequent investigation by the Frederick County Sheriff's Office found a number of payments made from the boosters' account for purchases for J.B. Seafood, a Middletown restaurant. Staley said his wife owns the restaurant.
Other purchases included 12 transactions at Sam's Club, 10 transactions at Food Pro of Frederick, six charges to Coca-Cola Refreshments USA, and two checks to H&M Wagner & Sons, a vendor the sports club says it doesn't use. Four checks for $1,500 or more were written for cash; the checks had memo lines indicating they were for change at sporting events, but the group denied that the events occurred or that so much change was needed for them.
“We do contend that a lot of those were for the boosters,” Kemp said of some of the expenses. Nevertheless, Staley paid $22,714, the amount the sheriff's office reached in the investigation, to close the case.
The boosters group felt that more than the $22,714 was missing.
Keith Powell, president of the boosters, said the concessions account generally made two large deposits to the group's general fund account each year. The last deposit before Staley took over was made in 2010. In the five seasons under Staley, the concessions fund lost $500, Powell said. So far this year, the account has cleared more than $34,000, he said.
He said the theft took a toll on the organization.
“In the middle of the summer, we were just about out of money to pay our bills,” Powell said.
The group pursued the criminal charges even after being reimbursed.
“We wanted justice,” Powell said. “We felt that this was someone entrusted to volunteer for the kids. We never in a million years would have thought they'd steal those funds.”
State's Attorney Charlie Smith said his office spent a lot of time investigating and prosecuting the case because of the amount of the theft and the long time period when money was taken, between March 19, 2011, and May 26, 2012.
“We knew that these were funds that belonged to the kids and were going to his business and not being paid back,” Smith said.
He said there are two to three cases of theft from youth organizations or nonprofit groups that reach his office each year. In many cases, the person accused of theft immediately repays the money and the groups decide not to pursue charges.
“These cases are not uncommon at all,” Smith said.
In December, Daphnie Virginia Campbell, 48, pleaded guilty to committing a theft scheme between $10,000 and $100,000. According to police charging documents, Campbell used $36,613 in dues paid by Mid-Maryland Girls Basketball League members to cover personal expenses, including groceries, veterinary and dental bills, and a $455.50 trip to a spa.
Campbell's mother contacted the league and paid $9,800 in restitution, asking that her daughter be allowed to repay the stolen funds on a payment plan and that Campbell's name not appear in the newspaper, according to the charging documents.
Campbell was ordered to repay $24,813.08 and complete 100 hours of community service at her sentencing hearing Dec. 13. She received a 15 year suspended prison sentence and must complete five years of supervised probation.
Even police organizations aren't immune to theft.
In 2007, a former manager for the Frederick Police Department's Fraternal Order of Police lodge pleaded guilty to embezzling at least $45,000 to support a gambling addiction. In 2008, a husband and wife, both former Frederick County Sheriff's Office employees, pleaded guilty to misappropriating $18,500 from that Fraternal Order of Police lodge. The couple said it was the result of a bookkeeping error.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

FCHS athletic director busted for theft from sports accounts in Georgia

Fayette County High School Athletic Director Darren A. Handley resigned suddenly earlier this month. The reason became apparent Tuesday when Fayetteville detectives arrested the former assistant principal and charged him with stealing money from the school’s athletic accounts.

Handley was jailed Tuesday on two counts of theft by taking in connection to funds stolen from several of the school’s athletic accounts.

Fayetteville Det. Mike Whitlow said Handley, 48, was charged with two counts of theft by taking fiduciary. Those charges were filed because Georgia does not have a charge for embezzlement, Whitlow added.

Whitlow said detectives received the case in early June when discrepancies were discovered in several athletic accounts at the school for which Handley had responsibility.

Whitlow said investigators currently believe amounts totaling several thousand dollars were stolen.

“He was moving funds from one of the school-related accounts to the other,” Whitlow said of the activity that is thought to have taken place over the past two years. “He oversaw the athletic-related accounts and he moved money from some of those. Eventually, he ended up with the money.”

Whitlow noted that the investigation is ongoing and that, at present, Handley is believed to be the only person involved. Investigators are in process of reviewing documents containing signatures “we don’t believe were signed by those people,” Whitlow added.

Fayette County School System interim Superintendent Dan Colwell on Tuesday said the school system discovered missing funds for which Handley had administrative responsibility.

Colwell said the school system conducted an internal investigation and subsequently turned the matter over to law enforcement.

Handley tendered his resignation earlier this month and it was accepted by the Fayette County Board of Education.

Elite school foundation head grilled over admission corruption in Korea

The head of a school foundation that runs one of Seoul's top private middle schools appeared before prosecutors Tuesday to face questioning over admission corruption allegations.

Kim Ha-joo, the chairman of the board of Younghoon International Middle School, is accused of accepting bribes from parents in exchange for giving their children unlawful admission, prosecutors said. Kim also allegedly falsified test records to grant enrollment to certain unqualified students.

Prosecutors suspect that the disgraced chairman also embezzled some 1.27 billion won (US$1.09 million) in foundation funds for personal use, they added.

The elite school has been under scrutiny after media reported that a grandson of Samsung Electronics Co. Chairman Lee Kun-hee allegedly earned an admission with tampered test results, prompting the chairman's son, Jay Y. Lee to issue an apology.

Kim showed up at the Seoul Northern District Prosecutors' Office around 9:30 a.m. to be quizzed over charges of business malpractice, breach of trust and fraud.

The probe comes after the Seoul municipal education office charged Younghoon and another prestigious private school, Daewon International Middle School, with the prosecution.

Wrapping up a special audit, the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education last month ordered the two schools to punish faculty members accused of having been involved in admission corruption, while referring 11 officials, including Kim, to the prosecution.

"Kim was found to have allegedly committed more embezzlement," an official close to the investigation said, adding that prosecutors plan to request an arrest warrant for him.

Monday, June 24, 2013

School Embezzlement Investigation Underway

An investigation is underway into embezzlement involving a Meridian school.
Officials say the case involves funds at Crestwood Elementary.

Interim superintendent, Dr. Terry Larabee, says most, if not all, of the roughly $4,000 involved, has been returned. He says it was money that came from a fundraiser last fall at the school.

Although school officials are not confirming the identity of the person involved, Larabee says school policy prohibits the involvement of school officials with PTA funds.

"We have a statutory obligation to report to authorities any crime that happens on school property, and we've met that obligation in this situation," said Larabee.

Larabee says the school employee alleged to be involved with the theft is no longer working for the district.

At this time the Meridian Police Department is conducting its own investigation into the case. At last check, formal charges had not been filed.

Chesterfield, Virginia school worker accused of embezzlement in court

A Chesterfield cafeteria worker accused of embezzling lunch money from Monacan High School will be in court Monday.

Tabatha Heyman is accused of stealing money from the school where she works. She allegedly stole at least $200 from Monacan High School.

Heyman will be in a Chesterfield courtroom at 8:30 a.m.

Former PTO member sentenced to jail for embezzlement in Michigan

The former treasurer of the Reading Parent Teachers Organization (PTO) was sentenced to 30 days in jail for embezzling money from the organization's funds.
Valerie Jane Studnicka, 47 was sentenced in Hillsdale County District Court Wednesday by Judge Donald Sanderson, but was granted some leeway with the sentencing.
Sanderson suspended half the sentence on the grounds that Studnicka completes the terms of her probation over the next year. Restitution in the case of $2,700 has been paid by Studnicka and the fines and costs assessed will be paid shortly.
Studnicka was arrested on May 11 after it was discovered she had seven checks using the PTO's account to herself, including a $1,970 check used to pay her mortgage. Some of the checks may have been for legitimate payments owed to her by the organization, but others were suspicious, according to Hillsdale County Prosecutor Neal Brady.
"You were placed in a position of trust," Sanderson said. "Athough there was some sort of explanation, there were seven checks written and that suggests it wasn't just a mistake."
Studnicka's lawyer, Benjamin Dajos of Coldwater, said there was some confusion on his client's part because both her checkbook and the PTO's were the same make and model. Sanderson said he understood, but if a mistake was made, it should have been caught and corrected the first time, not after seven checks.
Studnicka was given time to work out the details of the remaining jail time and has been given credit for one day served, meaning she will serve 14 days in jail if she completes her probation.

East Lansing Man Charged with Embezzlement of PTA in Michigan

A man from East Lansing is facing embezzlement charges after police say he stole thousands of dollars.

47-year-old Robert Miller was arraigned on one felony county of embezzlement on Friday, June 21. He's accused of stealing more than $7,700 from the Pinecrest Elementary Parent Teacher Council (PTC) while Treasurer.

Miller's wife, 39-year-old Kimberly Miller, turned herself in on Friday and is expected to charged with felony larceny.

Police say $6,500 of the $7,700 originally stolen has been returned to the PTC.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Beyond the Basics of Church Insurance


Each primary area of church insurance (property, liability, automobile and workmen’s compensation) bears lesser-known considerations.
To help church leaders navigate them, here’s some expert advice from a handful of church insurance specialists:
Melany Stonewall, corporate communications manager at GuideOne Insurance in West Des Moines, Iowa
Scott Figgins, vice president — underwriting at Brotherhood Mutual Insurance in Fort Wayne, Indiana
Patrick Moreland, CPCU, vice president — marketing at Church Mutual Insurance Company in Merrill, Wisconsin
Property Figgins: In large churches, if they have a school, bookstore or other income-generating revenue, they need business income insurance. It protects against loss of that income in the event the church is damaged and the income stream is interrupted or lost.
Churches also need to look at bond coverage to protect against theft embezzlement/fraud by church volunteers or employees. This isn’t something we’d like to think would happen, but a trusted church volunteer who finds himself or herself in a difficult financial situation can justify “borrowing” church funds.
Stonewall: Pastors should investigate coverage for indirect losses, such as extra expenses, tuition fees and rents. There are also extensions that may provide additional coverage for items such as newly acquired or constructed property, property of others, off-premises property, trees, shrubs and so on.
Moreland: For insurance purposes, if a congregation would want to rebuild after a building is destroyed, they’d want to purchase a limit of insurance that approaches, or is equal to, the “replacement cost” of the building. For older buildings, this amount probably is much greater than the market value of the building.
Take an urban, cathedral-like structure, for example: It would require many millions to rebuild, but it might be nearly worthless on the selling market.
If a congregation wouldn’t want to replace a destroyed building — or would replace it with a building that’s smaller and more suitable to its current need — they might consider purchasing a limit for the “actual cash value” (ACV) of the building. There won’t be many buildings for which congregations wish to insure on this basis, because most losses aren’t total losses. An ACV limit might leave the congregation underinsured for partial losses.
Figgins: Employment liability coverage protects against wrongful termination.
It’s also important that a large church has emotional injury coverage — if, for example, a child is brought to a church by friends and is baptized, but he or she is from a Muslim family. Or, maybe a long-term member’s membership is revoked.
Moreland: Not considered “general liability” — but often packaged with it — is personal and advertising injury. The most common types of legal action in this realm are for libel, slander and defamation of character.
Less common, but very tragic, are incidents of child sexual abuse. Not all policies offered to churches include coverage for these cases, but all congregations should consider it essential.
Increasing in frequency are employment-related lawsuits alleging discrimination, wrongful termination and sexual harassments. These types of lawsuits are covered by employment practices liability insurance.
Errors and omissions made by directors and officers are covered only by directors and officers (D&O) liability insurance.
Stonewall: Hired and non-owned business auto coverage is available on an excess basis. It covers bodily injury and property damage caused by a vehicle you hire — including rented or borrowed vehicles — or non-owned vehicles (vehicles owned by others, including vehicles owned by employees) used for business use. Generally, physical damage isn’t covered.
Figgins: If the pastor’s vehicle is being used for church use, its title probably needs to be in the church’s name.
We also offer car care coverage. If members and/or volunteers offer charity brake services, for example, a typical automobile policy won’t cover it if the brakes then fail; car care coverage will. It’s essentially “garage-keeper’s coverage” for churches.
Workmen’s compensation
Figgins: The majority of states require workmen’s compensation coverage. It covers all medical bills, lost wages and permanent injuries. In small churches, a pastor can be considered an “individual contractor,” for tax purposes; but, most states would still require him or her to be covered as an employee.
Stonewall: A workers’ compensation policy will cover full- and part-time employees.  But, in most situations, volunteers aren’t covered.
Moreland: In at least one state — California — volunteers can be covered under a workers’ compensation policy. In most states, however, minor injuries to volunteers will be covered up to a low (typically several thousand dollars) limit under the medical-expenses portion of the general liability policy. Think of this as “goodwill coverage” to help avoid a lawsuit.
If a volunteer’s injury is serious and was caused by the church’s negligence, the general liability coverage and limit will be triggered.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Seven sentenced in Bensalem School District theft ring in Pennsylvania

Four months after Bucks County authorities charged 20 people with being part of a decade long theft network that cost the Bensalem School District about $1 million, many of them will give back money and labor to the district under court order.

Seven of the 20 charged in the schemes, which included stealing buses and tires and clocking in no-show employees, were sentenced this week, according to Assistant District Attorney Robert James.

Ten more are to appear in court over the next several days, and the remaining three next month, James said.

The sentences for those who have pleaded include tens of thousands of dollars in restitution to the district, James said, and hundreds of hours of community service to be performed on school property, such as picking up trash or clearing weeds.

"Our focus of the investigation is to make sure everybody who is criminally liable for the theft on the taxpayers is held accountable," James said.

The charges detailed theft that continued for a decade. Facilities employees would order car parts, such as batteries, tires, or windshield wipers, then steal them and sell them to local businessmen, authorities said. Some in the group often met over breakfast, earning them the moniker "the Breakfast Club" from authorities.

The cover-up, authorities say, involved officials as high as the district's business manager, Jack Myers, a former Philadelphia School District employee who oversaw Bensalem's $100 million annual district budget. He is due in court next month, James said.

In February, Myers' attorney, Thomas Kenny, said he and Myers "categorically deny" that Myers knew about the thefts. A message left for Kenny Wednesday afternoon was not returned.

Authorities also alleged a separate scheme in which several employees who rarely showed up were clocked in and out of work by coworkers.

James called the schemes "brazen."

"It's amazing how it went on with nobody putting a stop to it," he said.

Two of those sentenced this week were ordered to prison but granted house arrest, James said. Anthony Ruggiero, a district employee who earned thousands of dollars in overtime he apparently did not work, will serve 10 to 23 months. Joseph Bound, a businessman who purchased stolen car parts from the district, will serve two to 23 months.

Ruggiero was also ordered to pay more than $40,000 in restitution, James said, and Bound, $90,000.

The others already sentenced - Martin Chappell, Elwyn Smith, Wilson Lopez, and Ronald Angle - owe at least 50


Former head of Career Alliance, Flint school board member plead guilty to embezzlement in federal court

The former head of Career Alliance and a former Flint school board member pleaded guilty Friday, June 21, to embezzling federal funds from the career services agency.

Pamela Loving, 69, and Helen Williams, 59, each pleaded guilty to one count of "misapplication" -- which federal documents also call embezzlement -- of Workforce Investment Act funding. They appeared in front of Flint U.S. District Magistrate Judge Michael J. Hluchaniuk.

The pleas were taken under advisement until approved by Flint U.S. District Judge Mark A. Goldsmith. There is no date scheduled when Goldsmith will approve the pleas.
Loving, the former president and chief executive officer of Career Alliance, admitted in court to taking $78,000 from the organization for her personal benefit and to pay for training sessions for people who did not work for Career Alliance.

Flint Journal records show Loving was placed on unpaid administrative leave from her position at Career Alliance in 2007 and never returned. She won a $154,000 judgment
in 2008 against Career Alliance because she claimed her contract had been effectively terminated.

Williams served as executive director of Flint Family Road, an organization started with the goal of reducing infant deaths by better preparing parents to be mothers and fathers, according to Flint Journal files.
Williams admitted in court to falsifying invoices to get money from Career Alliance contractors for services she never provided. Williams admitted in court to embezzling more than $88,000.

Williams served on the Flint school board for seven years, before resigning in 2001.

In a 2008 letter questioning spending at Career Alliance, the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Growth said it had been informed Helen Williams was a cousin of Loving and that Family Road was given rent-free space in Career Alliance's Ruether Center.

Loving and Williams declined to comment on the court proceedings. Their attorneys, Richard Morgan and Kenneth Scott, also declined comment.

The two admitted that the embezzlement began July 2006 and lasted until May 2007.

The plea agreements call for both women to serve up to 10-16 months in a federal prison if Judge Goldsmith accepts their pleas. Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 15.

County, state and federal investigators reported chronic mismanagement and improper spending at Career Alliance after a series of Flint Journal stories in 2007 detailed problems at the organization.

Career Alliance serves as a job-training agency for Genesee and Shiawassee counties as well as the city of Flint and is responsible for millions of dollars for employment programs.

Current Career Alliance officials could not be reached for comment.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Audit finds N. Indiana school treasurer embezzled $280,000 before committing suicide

A state audit has found that the treasurer of a northern Indiana school district embezzled about $280,000 before police say she committed suicide soon after being questioned.

The thefts weren't suspected until several Tippecanoe Valley School Corp. checks and district credit card receipts for personal items were found by an investigator inside a purse that had been stolen from 50-year-old Sherri Adamson, according to a Kosciusko County Sheriff's Department report released Wednesday.

An officer and the district superintendent confronted Adamson at a Jan. 7 meeting, during which she said it was a mistake then fled after being told she would be taken to the sheriff's office for a formal interview, The Rochester Sentinel and The Journal Gazette reported. Officers found Adamson fatally shot herself inside her SUV in woods near her rural Rochester home.

The State Board of Accounts audit found Adamson made about $245,000 in improper credit card charges since June 2010 along with nearly $35,000 in checks made to herself or her creditors.

Adamson had been the treasurer of the 2,000-student district since July 2007. The district covers parts of Kosciusko and Fulton counties about 50 miles west of Fort Wayne.

District Superintendent Brett Boggs said the district expected full restitution of the embezzled money from public official bonding that covered Adamson. Boggs said much of the embezzlement happened during a time when the district was without a deputy treasurer and Adamson was covering the responsibilities of both positions.

Former school board member arrested on embezzlement charges in North Carolina

 A former Brunswick County school board member was arrested Thursday on embezzlement charges.

According to the Brunswick County Sheriff's Office, Ray Gilbert was arrested on two counts of embezzlement.

Officials say the first count was in the amount of $1,128 from Jesse Mae Monroe Elementary School PTA and the second count was in the amount of $2,550 also from Jesse Mae Monroe Elementary School PTA.

The incidents happened between November, 1, 2011 and June 30, 2012 and July, 1, 2012 and June 20, 2013.

According to the Jesse Mae Monroe PTA website, Gilbert served as president.

This is not the first run-in that Gilbert has had with the school board. Gilbert was banned from all county schools back in December of 2007 after a Brunswick High School secretary says she had a sexual relationship with Gilbert.

Danville, Kentucky church lawsuit aims to stop power struggle

Church of God of America Inc. is suing a group that originally filed a lawsuit claiming to represent it.

The most recent lawsuit, filed June 11 in Boyle Circuit Court, accuses a group of disgruntled members of tarnishing the name and reputation of the Danville-headquartered church and its leader, Bishop and President Timothy Napier. 

The complaint alleges the group, including two men who once served as pastors, published false and libelous statements without church authority last year.

Danville attorney Bill Erwin filed the suit on the church’s behalf, seeking both compensatory and punitive damages. Erwin also filed for a restraining order on behalf of the church and Napier to stop the defendants from continuing to meet and act on the church’s behalf. 

It is the latest salvo in what has become a public and contentous schism in the church. Much of it stems from decisions about how to move forward after the church building on Martin Luther King Boulevard was destroyed by a fire Jan. 31, 2010. Church of God of America Inc., of which Napier is the registered officer with the Kentucky Secretary of State’s Office, eventually collected $918,000 in insurance money.

“What they have done has been harmful to both Bishop Napier and the church as they are trying to recover and build something new in this community,” Erwin said Wednesday.

Earlier this year, William Fay and Eric L. Barnes, both of Somerset, and Barnes’ son, Justin Barnes of Shelbyville, identified themselves as church elders and trustees in a lawsuit filed in Boyle Circuit Court on behalf of themselves and  27 church members. 

In court documents, they allege Napier, James Hines, Charles Johnson and Perry Cunningham misappropriated funds for personal use, acted without proper authorization to rebuild the church in Danville, and locked the plaintiffs out of churches in Somerset and Shelbyville. 

The plaintiffs in that case asked the court to halt construction on a new $1.5-million Church of God facility under way on Perryville Road and prevent Napier and the other defendants from taking any further actions on behalf of the church. 

They also requested access to the Somerset and Shelbyville church buildings, church financial records and repayment for alleged embezzlement. 

The Barnses and Fay said they were ordained elders of the church and questioned Napier's status as bishop and president, maintaining he was never properly elected by elders as required by church bylaws. The lawsuit also challenged the legality of Napier's actions over the last two years, most notably the purchase of land for the new church.

In a June 12 ruling on Erwin’s motion to dismiss the case, Circuit Judge Darren Peckler said the group could not file the lawsuit on behalf of the Church of God of America because it had no authority to do so. Erwin, who also represented Napier in the previous lawsuit, had filed a counterclaim asking for the suit to be thrown out with prejudice and for both punitive and compensatory damages.

Erwin filed the motion for a restraining order to stop the defendants in the more recent case from holding meetings in the church’s name. He said the group has continued to meet, including holding a summer revival. 

While the primary complainants in the original lawsuit have accused Napier of seizing power by skirting church protocol, Erwin said the Barnses met with Fay at a Corbin restaurant after the fire to name themselves elders.

The new lawsuit names the Barneses, Fay, Charles Johnson Jr., and Perry and Amanda Cunningham as defendants. It says the father and son had no standing in the corporation to act on its behalf, falsified an elders’ report and a Special Team Review Report, and that the accusations contained in those documents and the lawsuit filed against Napier constitute libel. 

Erwin also insists the statements about misusing funds were disproven when accountants hired to review the church books said all money has been spent appropriately. 

It remains unclear how the group that originally sued will respond, individually or collectively, now that it is being sued by the organization the court recognizes as the Church of God of America. 

Neither Erwin's counterclaim, the motion for the restraining order nor the filing of additional counts in the subsequent lawsuit, has received a response. Lebanon attorney Ted Lavit, who represented the Barnses and Fay, could not be reached for comment.

According to Erwin, stopping the meetings and accusations is the most important thing to Napier and others who side with him. He said his clients are not asking for specific damages because the conflict is ongoing and the defendants continue to claim roles in the church and make false accusations.

Erwin likened the case he acknowledged is extremely unique to a person or group of people claiming to speak for a company without permission. 

Coca-Cola would have a fit,” Erwin said. “The fact it is a church doesn’t make its standing as a corporation any different than if it were Coca-Cola. And they are trying to rebuild here in this community.” 

Napier, who also owns Kentucky Tours and Travel in Danville, told a reporter in March he appointed Eric and Justin Barnes to serve as pastors of the Somerset and Shelbyville churches, respectively, but later terminated them from their positions. 

Erwin said the Barnses and William Fay were the ones not legitimately chosen for their positions, meeting together at a Corbin restaurant to appoint themselves as church elders. Johnson and both Perry and Amanda Cunningham, defendants along with Napier and James L. Hines in the original case, have continued to act without church authority and participate in a smear campaign against Napier and other elders, he said.

Napier has maintained the legal action against him was fueled by "jealousy and envy." 

"They do not want to see the vision I have for this community to come to fruition. This is an attack to destroy it. Some of them want to rebuild in Somerset, but this is the town for this church to grow,” Napier said in March.

Erwin believes the defendants are being motivated more by gaining control of the insurance windfall than real concerns about Napier's actions.

"There is a lot of money out there, and they want it for these other parts of the state. But the Church of God of America in Danville burned down in Danville, and they are going to rebuild here in Danville."

The defendants have 20 days from the date the summonses were received to answer the counterclaim and the new lawsuit. 

The parties will meet for a hearing on the restraining order July 10.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Church money leads to temptation -Trust is key in big religious organizations

Allegations of $1 million in misspending at St. Leo Catholic Church in Bonita Springs once again highlight the struggles even well-established institutions face in safeguarding their money.

Organizations may have strict financial policies, such as the 87-page Diocese of Venice financial manual governing St. Leo's. But those rules amount to little if they are not strictly enforced at all levels of leadership, fraud experts say.

Religious organizations, often awash in cash, sometimes forget unmonitored spending authority is too tempting for some, said Verne Hargrave, an Arlington, Texas-based accountant who specializes in church financial audits and investigations.

"In many respects, they're easy targets," Hargrave said.

"They have a trust and forgiveness philosophy. It makes it hard for them to believe it could happen at a church."

Religious and charitable organizations were victim to about 2 percent of U.S. fraud cases in 2008 and 2009, according to a survey last year of fraud examiners. The median loss was about $75,000.

They tend to be inside jobs, commonly involving improper billing and reimbursements or thefts of on-hand cash, the survey found. Often, news of wrongdoing is not made public and handled internally.

Some high-profile Florida cases:

- St. Vincent Ferrer Catholic Church in Delray Beach fell victim to two embezzlement schemes by priests funding lavish homes, vacations and even a mistress, according to reports at the time. The Rev. John Skehan was sentenced to 14 months in prison in 2009 for stealing more than $370,000. The Rev. Francis Guinan was later sentenced to four years for stealing as much as $100,000 from the same church.

- A 2007 investigation at Episcopal Church of the Advent in Leon County turned up more than $500,000 in missing funds, according to news reports at the time. Former church bookkeeper Rosanne Stone was later sentenced to two years in prison after pleading no contest to the charges.

- The Diocese of Palm Beach revealed in 2002 it had kept quiet the embezzlement of $400,000 in the early 1990s by financial manager Robert J. Schattie. Schattie used the money to buy a fishing boat, Rolex watch and property, according to the church.

Fraud is a particular risk for charitable and religious organizations, which rely heavily on donors, area church leaders say.

"There is a strong public trust there," said Russell Howard, executive pastor at McGregor Baptist Church in Fort Myers. "We have to be above reproach."

St. Leo's

Bishop Frank Dewane, head of the Diocese of Venice, told parishioners last week St. Leo's pastor, Rev. Stan Strycharz, used about $665,000 in church money for his personal credit card bills over the past five years, according to an outside audit.

Dewane also accused Strycharz, who is on administrative leave, of providing another $171,877 to a former church business manager for her children's education, $149,705 to Strycharz's brother and another $43,000 in unspecified misappropriations.

Strycharz's supporters claim the credit card was issued by the church and used for parish-related expenses, something the diocese denies.

It is not clear how Strycharz would possess a credit line that would allow for $665,000 in personal charging. He receives a salary, but the church has not revealed it.

His supporters also said the educational expenses cited by Dewane benefited 25 children each year for the past five years, which the diocese also denies.

The church and Strycharz's supporters have threatened legal action. But no criminal charges have been filed in connection with the allegations.

The audit itself, which might clear up the conflicting stories, has not been made available outside of church circles. A 2009-10 audit makes no mention of financial improprieties.

Diocese spokesman Billy Atwell said the document contains proprietary information and, for now, won't be released.

Strict rules

The diocese has strict rules on spending, but they grant broad fiscal authority to a parish pastor under the heading of "ordinary administration."

That administrator is supposed to administer those finances with assistance of a parish finance council, whose duties are to periodically review spending and other financial operations.

A pastor's financial authority includes collecting and banking money, paying salaries, replacing supplies and other purchases needed for day-to-day operations. That last item comes with a limit of $30,000 or 5 percent of a parish's operational income, whichever is less.

Anything more expensive must get clearance from the bishop, according to diocese policy.

Atwell, the diocese spokesman, said he does not know St. Leo's operational income.

The diocese, which governs parishes in multiple Gulf Coast and central Florida counties, has assets totaling more than $160 million. That includes cash, land and investments, according to a 2010 financial audit.

Rules allow for parish credit cards but state they are discouraged. Those with credit cards are required to submit receipts for all purchases.

When asked why the financial council did not detect and stop inappropriate spending, Atwell released this statement that reads, in part:

"Father's financial irregularities were recognized in the years leading up to his being placed on administrative leave, and he was told what to fix by a peer review committee. Clearly he ignored many of the Diocese's policies and procedures and the specific corrective actions he was told to take - and as such over $1 million in questionable or unsupported expenses remain."

Atwell also said Strycharz refused to cooperate with auditors and allow them to review his credit card information. Strycharz backers insist the priest cooperated and provided documentation in a timely manner.

Strycharz has been instructed by the church to not speak publicly on the matter while it remains under investigation.

Many hands

Other large religious organizations in Southwest Florida have their own strict rules for spending.

First Assembly of God in Fort Myers, a multi-million dollar operation with 6,000 members, requires multiple approvals for any significant purchase, said David Thomas, senior assistant pastor.

It too has a finance committee charged with reviewing church books and undergoes an annual audit.

Takes from the Sunday collection plate are counted and banked by multiple church staffers, he said.

"People are making donations to this organization on a daily basis," Thomas said. "If they're not going to trust this organization and the financial integrity of it, they're not going to make donations to support our ministries."

The key is to not place spending authority in the hands of too few people, said Doug Pigg, associate pastor of church administration for 8,000-member First Baptist Church in Naples.

In such cases, "you've opened the door for a problem to take place," Pigg said. "If you have control of the money and you write the checks, then you've got trouble."

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The dish on disbursement fraud


Forging signatures on checks, charging personal purchases to company credit cards and paying off personal credit cards with company funds are just a few examples of a common form of embezzlement: disbursement fraud. Since this is the most common form of funds misappropriation, every company needs to know how to protect itself. In an ongoing series on fraud myths and realities, here’s what you need to know about disbursement fraud.

Myth 1: People you trust will never steal from you.

Reality: The only people who can steal from your business are the ones you trust. Trusted employees have access to assets, and they understand accounting processes well enough to work around your controls. In fact, in a report on six-figure embezzlements, more than 70 percent of perpetrators worked in finance or accounting.

Case in point: Susan Hopkins, former executive assistant to a Coldwater Creek CEO, pleaded guilty to embezzling $260,000 by charging personal expenses on company credit cards. Hopkins had direct access to funds and pursued this common disbursement scheme for four years before she was caught.

Myth 2: Men are more likely to steal than women.

Reality: In the embezzlement report, women accounted for 64 percent of cases – though men embezzled more on average ($1.7 million for men versus $800,000 for women). Note that each of the embezzlers featured in this article is a woman.

Case in point: A former secretary for the Blaine-Camas Farm Bureau office pleaded guilty to charges of embezzlement last May. She was charged with writing roughly 90 checks to herself – totaling $35,000 – over four years.

Myth 3: People go to great pains to conceal their misdeeds in the accounting records.

Reality: If no one looks at the bank statement or cancelled checks, a morally flexible bookkeeper can conceal fraudulent activity with surprisingly little effort. The same embezzlement report identified forged and unauthorized checks as the most common scheme, beating all others by almost a 2-to-1 margin. Such schemes went on for more than four and a half years before being discovered.

Case in point: Tracy Dalin pleaded guilty to embezzling $530,000 from Sun Land Investments in Bellevue, Wash., where she had worked as a real estate agent and office manager. She forged the owner’s signature on checks and deposited them to her accounts, made unauthorized transfers of funds to her personal bank account, and arranged for bank statements to be mailed to a post office box she controlled so she could alter them before showing them to the owner. Dalin beat the average, pursuing her schemes for seven years before being discovered.

The good news? You can prevent and detect disbursement fraud with proactive internal control and oversight procedures.

If your organization’s internal controls have never been formally evaluated, consider retaining the services of an accountant or forensic accountant to do an initial assessment.

After that baseline evaluation, assess internal control design and compliance at least annually and whenever you experience turnover of executives, turnover in the accounting department, or when you implement a new accounting system. This can be done by an owner or board member familiar with accounting processes and internal controls or by an independent party.

A documented system of checks and balances serves two purposes: to identify honest errors and uncover dishonest acts. Early detection of either helps organizations reduce the financial effects of theft and embezzlement, prevent erroneous financial reports, and ensure proper regulatory compliance.

The presence of strong internal controls does not imply mistrust of executives, accountants and bookkeepers – in fact, it protects them from undue doubt and suspicion. These controls demonstrate sound management and professionalism, and are evidence of a well-run organization.

Trust, but verify.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Multiple Center High School employees placed on administrative leave during embezzlement investigation in California

Associated Student Body funds come from school fundraisers, athletic activities and special events like school dances. The students even have some control over how the money is spent through student government, but Center High School employees are under investigation for possible embezzlement.

"Oh, it could be thousands of dollars can go through that account any given week," Center Unified School District Director of Personnel and Student Services David Grimes said.

Grimes confirmed that over the last few weeks, the district has investigated accusations of embezzlement of money raised by Center High School students and managed for them by school officials.

"The principal works with the bookkeeper and has oversight and authority to manage and watch over, and make sure that account is being handled properly," Grimes explained.

Asked if anyone else is involved in that process, "No. No, we want to, you don't want too many hands in when you're dealing with the finances," Grimes replied.

Grimes did not say who the investigation is specifically targeting, but he will say who it isn't.

"We want to be very clear on that, the principal is not the subject of any investigation at all," Grimes said.

Grimes said Center High School only has one bookkeeper and no one other than the bookkeeper accesses the account.

Center High School's website identifies the bookkeeper as Dana Busath. When News10 visited Busath at her home, she declined to comment. The school district said they have placed multiple employees on administrative leave.

Grimes said some students have been questioned during the investigation, but they stress that no students have been accused of any wrongdoing.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Ex-Clearlake pastor's wife turns in self in embezzlement case

A woman accused embezzling from a Clearlake church, just like her ex-pastor husband, made her first court appearance in the case Tuesday.

Shanell Stark voluntarily reported to the Lake County Courthouse Tuesday morning after an arrest warrant was issued back in August following a nearly four-year Clearlake Police investigation.

Shanell Stark, 41, faces one felony count of grand theft and a special allegation that the amount exceeded $50,000 -- the same charges her husband, 62-year-old Bruce Anthony Stark, stands accused of.

Both have formally denied wrongdoing. Shanell Stark pleaded not guilty to the lone count and denied the special allegation during her arraignment by Judge Andrew S. Blum Tuesday, deputy district attorney Sharon Lerman-Hubert said.

Authorities allege the couple stole tens of thousands of dollars in cash and property from the Hilltop Apostolic Church in Clearlake during the time Bruce Stark worked as a pastor there between 2002 and 2007. Shanell Stark reportedly held a secretarial position at the church.

Elk Grove Police arrested Bruce Stark on an outstanding Lake County arrest warrant in March, but his wife was not taken into custody. "For some reason, she wasn't picked up at that same time," Lerman-Hubert said.

After Shanell Stark decided to voluntarily report to court Tuesday, the judge recalled the arrest warrant and released her on her own recognizance, Lerman-Hubert said. Both Starks remain out of custody and now reside in Stockton.

The couple are set to have their preliminary hearing together on Aug. 7. They are due back in court Aug. 2 to assign a courtroom for the pretrial hearing -- during which a judge would decide if there's enough evidence to require the defendants to stand trial for the charges.

Public defenders Thomas Quinn, who represents Bruce Stark, and Barry Melton, who represents Shanell Stark, could not be immediately reached for comment.

Former admin charged with embezzling from Duke University in North Carolina

A former administrator with Duke University's Pratt School of Engineering is charged with embezzling money from the university.

A warrant for the arrest of Jeffrey Cable, 52, of Willow Spring, on charges of embezzlement was issued on June 4.

Cable used his university credit card to make $1,784.26 in unauthorized purchases between Dec. 7, 2012, and Jan. 2, 2013, the warrant says.

Cable was a program director for Duke's Pratt School of Engineering from August 2009 until May 10, 2013.

A Duke spokesperson would only comment that Cable and the university "made a separation on May 10."

West Jefferson Woman Charged With Four Felony Counts of Embezzling Money From Boone Church in North Carolina

Boone Police Investigators have charged Janet Marie Culley, 41 years-of-age, with four counts of Felony Embezzlement.  Mrs. Culley was taken before the Watauga County Magistrate where she was placed under a $10,000 secured bond pending a July 29, 2013, court appearance.  Mrs. Culley is alleged to have misappropriated company funds to her own use while working as a finance/ministry administrative assistant for the First Baptist Church of Boone, Inc.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Thou Shalt Not Steal: Churches Not Immune From Fraud


It would be easy to assume churches and other religious organizations have no problem with employee theft—trust levels tend to be much higher. Unfortunately, even those who work in places of worship can be tempted just like anyone else entrusted with large sums of money. In many ways, churches are often more vulnerable for a variety of reasons:

People tend to trust each other more in situations where beliefs run contrary to dishonesty.
Churches tend to have smaller staffs, resulting in one person controlling finances.
Clergy and administrators—or many business owners, for that matter—are not taught to think about fraud risk, particularly regarding their own staff.
Those responsible for day-to-day administration might be reluctant to ask for an audit or anything sending a message to the staff that says, “We don’t quite trust you.”
A quick Google search for “church embezzlement” reveals a number of stories that have deeply affected churches around the country. Just last month, a former church administrator was sentenced to 17 months in prison for embezzling $130,000 over nine years. In a separate case, a former bookkeeper at a Minneapolis-area church was accused of stealing more than $235,000 over seven years. These were not one-time incidents of bad judgment; they were carefully orchestrated multiyear frauds made possible because someone completely trusted these employees, which is generally the reason they go undetected for so long.

The schemes are often uncomplicated, and once discovered, is simply a matter of tallying up the damage and trying to figure out how to get it back (without employee theft insurance, the odds of recovering funds are small). Common schemes include employees who write extra checks to themselves or use business funds to pay off personal credit card bills.

So what can a church do? The solutions are no different than those for any other business:

Don’t let one person have too much control. I often tell clients not to tempt employees who may be going through a tough time.
Have one person write checks and another person sign the checks.
Add a volunteer to the process to provide some oversight, such as having a retired accountant reconcile the bank account.
Ensure any cash collections are counted by two or three people at the same time.
Having checks and balances is not about not about mistrust or creating red tape. Done properly, they can enhance the flow of documentation, find unintentional errors and make the church a better place for everyone.

Police investigating possible embezzlement of sports funds at Shorewood in Washington

Shoreline Police are investigating an assistant baseball coach for possible embezzlement of sports funds at Shorewood High School. At stake is $7095 in ASB funds allocated for baseball, which are unaccounted for.

Shoreline Schools reported the matter to Shoreline Police and are awaiting the outcome of the investigation.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Cops investigate alleged boy scout embezzlement in Rhode Island

Police are looking into a possible embezzlement case involving the treasurer of a local Boy Scout troop.

Katherine Valenti, 54, of West Warwick, has been accused of writing nine checks out to "Cash" and then cashing them herself. The checks were written from the Coventry Boy Scout Troop #1 checking account, and they totaled just over $8,000.

The financial activity was discovered when Committee Chairman Rockne Starks noticed the troop's checking account balance was unusually low. According to police, Valenti had already begun paying back some of the embezzled money before the missing cash was detected.

Valenti will be charged with nine counts of embezzlement. She is due in court on June 12.

A West Warwick woman faces nine felony counts of embezzlement after the chairman of Boy Scout Troop 1, which meets at St. Vincent De Paul Church, noticed that the troop's checking balance was unusually low.
Police Lt. John Shields said that troop Committee Chairman J. Rockne Starks asked for a printout of transactions over the past year and determined that the treasurer had written nine checks out to "cash" and cashed them herself. She had begun paying back the money before the crime was detected, Shields said.
Katherine A. Valenti, 54, of 34 New London Avenue in West Warwick was summoned to appear in District Court, Warwick, on June 12.

Valenti entered no plea Thursday morning. She's set to appear in Superior Court on July 29.

Police say the accusations arose after a scouting committee chairman noticed the troop's checking account balance was unusually low. The chairman asked Valenti for a printout of the troop's yearly transactions, and he noticed in the printout Valenti had written nine checks out to "Cash" totaling over $8,000 and cashed them herself.

By the time the alleged embezzlement was noticed, police say Valenti had already started paying some of the money back. The judge took note of that restitution when setting Valenti's bail.

Local Boy Scouts spokesman David Preston didn't comment Thursday; he said the organization would be deferring to police for the latest information.

Former RPI business manager indicted on embezzlement charges in Michigan

 former business manager for RPI’s School of Architecture has been indicted on embezzlement charges from 2010.

Christine Dickson is accused of taking an RPI credit card, and using it to buy more than $300,000 in goods, services, and cash for personal use.

Both parties were hoping to resolve the case without an indictment, but were unable to come to an agreement.

Dickson should be arraigned, early next week.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Embezzlement charges have been filed against former Pawhuska High School football coach in Oklahoma

Embezzlement charges have been filed against former Pawhuska High School football coach Scotty Ray Gilkey, who was suspended last November during his first season as head coach of the Huskies.

Gilkey, 38, was named in one felony charge of embezzlement and also a seven-count misdemeanor charge. A misdemeanor assault and battery charge also was filed against the coach for a related matter. All three charges were filed last Wednesday in Osage County District Court.

For his initial arraignment Thursday, Gilkey appeared by video before Osage County Special Judge Stuart Tate. Gilkey, who was represented by Tulsa attorney Richard O’Carroll, entered not guilty pleas to all of the charges.

Gilkey posted a bond of $2,500 on the felony embezzlement charge and $1,500 for the misdemeanor charge. No bond was required in the assault and battery case. Jennifer Lynn Gilkey, the coach’s wife, also was named in the multi-part misdemeanor charge. Bond for her was set at $1,500 following entry of a not-guilty plea.

Preliminary hearings were scheduled by Tate on July 26 at 9 a.m.

A PHS graduate, Gilkey was named last May to fill the vacant head coaching position of the Huskies. Approximately a month after being hired, he conducted a Huskie Football Skills Camp at the school. At least part of the criminal allegations reportedly stem from the handling of funds in connection with the camp.

Gilkey was suspended as coach in early November, just a few days before the Huskies were to play a Class 2A state playoff game. The suspension was announced by the local school Superintendent, Dr. Landon Berry, who also was in his first year at Pawhuska.

The Huskies, after losing five of their first six season games, dropped the playoff matchup at Commerce and concluded the 2012 campaign with a 4-7 mark. In the course of the season, two longtime PHS assistant coaches had stepped down and Pawhuska finished its year with a three-coach staff.

Pawhuska school officials later asked the Osage County Sheriff’s Office to conduct an investigation involving school funding issues. The investigation was completed early this year.

After graduating at PHS in 1993, Gilkey played football for two seasons at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M. After serving four years in the US Marine Corps., Gilkey returned as a player at Eastern Illinois University, where he was a teammate of current Dallas Cowboy quarterback Tony Romo.

Gilkey previously coached at the high school level in Illinois and at Bartlesville, Union and Tulsa Washington.

School administrator sentenced for stealing over $200 thousand in New York

A bookkeeper at an Albany charter school will spend at least the next five years behind bars for embezzlement after having been sentenced Tuesday.

Ronald Racela, 49, received a sentence of 5 to 10 years behind bars for stealing over $200,000 from the Brighter Choice Charter School where he worked as chief financial officer.

Racela’s sentencing came after he pleaded guilty in March to one count of grand larceny.

“The state prison sentence handed down by the Court reflects the selfishness of the defendant’s actions,” said Albany District Attorney David Soares. “Mr. Racela will have a long time to think about the victims he hurt through his greed.”

Soares also expressed gratitude for Albany Police Detective Bob Wise for what he called a tremendous effort in uncovering and investigating Racela’s crimes.

Between September 2011 and December 2012, Wise’s investigation revealed that Racela made a series of improper payroll entries to himself for a total of $208,837.45.

The inquiry also revealed that Racela had been on felony probation for a separate financial crime at the time he committed the fraud. Officials at Brighter Choice were unaware of his criminal background when he was hired as CFO.

Racela must also pay $174,400.08 in restitution.

Possible embezzlement at Grand Haven PTA in Michigan

 The Grand Haven Department of Public Safety is investigating the possible embezzlement of funds from a school Parent Teacher Association.

Authorities say members of the Ferry Elementary school PTA reported potential irregularities with its bank account.

The amount of money missing is not known but police say there is a suspect in the case.

No arrests have been made.

The Grand Haven Department of Public Safety is investigating a possible embezzlement of money from the Ferry Elementary School Parent Teachers Association.

Police have a suspect in the case, but no arrests had been made as of Tuesday. Police will not release the suspect’s name unless that person is arrested and charged with a crime.

According to Public Safety Director Jeff Hawke, representatives of the school’s PTA reported apparent irregularities with the group’s bank account. It appears that money is missing or unaccounted for, Hawke said.

Detectives are working to gather information on financial transactions to detemine how much is missing.

Nonprofits can take steps to prevent fraud, theft and embezzlement


When nonprofit groups discover a thief in their midst, it can be tempting to try to keep it secret, handling it in-house to avoid publicity and negative blow back.

But the reality is that word usually gets out, with the truth often getting twisted into something even uglier.

The Bethlehem Steelers Athletic Association -- which serves about 250 children who play football and cheer -- deserves credit for going public with its internal theft problem and pursuing criminal charges against the alleged perpetrator.

Bradley H. Scheetz, its former president, stands accused of stealing more than $34,000 from the youth sports organization between October 2011 and April 2012.

Recently, the group shared with The Express-Times and the changes that have been made to prevent future problems and to rebuild public trust. Dave Crim, the new president, said the group will continue making changes to continue improving.

So far, the Steelers group has revamped its board to include 14 voting members and has developed new bylaws and a new organizational structure. Two people -- the president and treasurer -- now have keys to the group’s post office box and the Steelers now have a land address. In the past, only the president had a key to the post office box.

Other changes include: A ledger and accounting software to help track money; daily bank deposits with photos taken of the drop bag and deposit information; a snack bar cash register that aligns with the accounting software and money counted independently by two different people.

The experts say theft, fraud and embezzlement can happen to any nonprofit group -- large or small.

Betsy Landers, president of the National Parent Teacher Association, says theft, fraud and embezzlement don’t happen often within PTAs, but every theft is troublesome.

Theft, fraud and embezzlement costs U.S. groups more than $400 billion a year and the average organization loses about 6 percent of its total revenue to these crimes. The perpetrator is often someone that others within the organization know, like and trust.

That’s why it’s important to have checks and balances in place -- to protect the organization, its members and the people it serves.

Good internal controls not only help organizations detect these problems early but also could prevent desperate people from acting on impulses to steal from or defraud an organization.

Laura Bay, the secretary-treasurer of the National PTA, says theft and fraud occur when someone has 1) opportunity 2) motivation and 3) rationalization.

Other tips for creating good internal controls are: Open and review bank statements; reconcile bank accounts monthly; verify wire transfers; avoid using debit cards, check cards or credit cards; verify cash received and cash deposited; never take money home; review accounts payable vendor lists with an eye toward suspicious names and addresses; protect checks, including storing them safely and never pre-signing them and prepare budgets.

Board members have a financial responsibility for the organization and shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions when things don’t add up and to continue asking questions until they fully understand financial processes and feel safe with them.

Bay says it’s important for members to report anything suspicious, such as when the profit made in a fundraiser doesn’t seem to add up. Members should never confront anyone directly but should report their suspicions to board members, according to Bay. Board members should then investigate, including calling for an audit or financial review, Bay says.

When an organization is sure money is missing, Bay says, it’s important to contact the police and the group’s insurance company.

Nonprofit groups such as local PTAs and booster groups are invaluable and serve our communities in many ways. It’s important for them to try to protect themselves from theft and other financial abuses and to report problems when they occur.

When they do, they can effectively and efficiently serve their communities and retain the public’s trust

Ex-University Medical Center in Texas administrator Greg Bruce facing federal mail fraud charge

A former University Medical Center administrator who resigned 18 months ago amid an FBI investigation is facing a federal mail fraud charge, according to a document filed in U.S. District Court.

Federal prosecutors filed a one-count information on Monday, June 3, alleging that Robert Gregory “Greg” Bruce stole more than $9,700 from the hospital in 2011.

Bruce said he will appear in U.S. District Court Thursday to enter a guilty plea.

Prosecutors filed an information directly with the court as an alternative to taking a matter to the grand jury.

In a statement released Monday afternoon, UMC officials said results of the internal audit that resulted in Bruce’s December 2011 resignation indicated he might have been embezzling from the hospital over a period of several years.

“UMC identified approximately $735,000 that Mr. Bruce is believed to have embezzled,” the hospital’s written statement said.

Bruce issued a statement late Monday afternoon saying that he came forward and admitted to stealing money.

“Shortly before Christmas 2011, I informed my employers at UMC I had made serious mistakes and took funds which were not mine,” he said. “I resigned and voluntarily notified the US Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation about these actions.”

Bruce said he is continuing to cooperate with the Justice Department and FBI in their investigation.

“While I have disappointed many, I hope through full cooperation and candor with the Justice Department and others, I can begin repairing the damage I have caused,” he said.

According to the prosecutors’ information, Bruce created and submitted an $9,701.45 invoice on Jan. 3, 2011, from a fictitious company, B.R, Media Monitoring, to be paid by the hospital. UMC prepared the check and sent it to a post office box Bruce controlled on Jan. 12.

The loss was discovered in a internal audit in December 2011. David Allison, UMC’s president and chief executive officer, asked for Bruce’s resignation.

He was the hospital’s vice president for corporate services when he resigned.

The hospital’s leadership eliminated the position after Bruce resigned and divided the responsibilities among several directors and administrators, the statement said.

The statement also noted the hospital has increased its oversight of contract, vendor relations and credit card use.

Bruce joined UMC as a health unit coordinator in 1992 and was promoted several times before becoming vice president of corporate services in 2005.

According to A-J Media archives, Bruce served as 2005 board chairman of the local American Red Cross and was honored for his work with the organization when he was named 2005 Volunteer of the Year by the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce.

He also was sourced as chairman of ListenLubbock, a political action committee, in a 2007 A-J Media article, and as president of the Heart of Lubbock Neighborhood Association in a 2008 article.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Former Shorewood, Wisconsin School Secretary Stole $310 Thousand In Special Ed Funds, Feds Say


A former Shorewood School District secretary has been charged with embezzling more than $300,000 in federal special education funds to buy TVs, household items and vacations for her family.

Donna Sternke was charged this week in federal court with issuing unauthorized checks totaling $310,263 over 13 years — from January 1998 to June 2011. In June 2011, the district discovered the unexplained purchase of gift cards for Kalahari Resort in Wisconsin Dells, and she was allowed to resign from her position, according to documents filed in federal court.

In October 2012, she admitted to federal investigators to stealing the money. And this week she reached a plea agreement with prosecutors.

If convicted, Sternke could face a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment. Under the plea agreement, Sternke will pay $310,263 in restitution to the school district.

According to court documents:

Sternke worked in the district's Instructional Services and Special Education Department, handling purchasing for the department, making use of federal Individual with Disabilities Education Act grants in the sum of $632,362.

Special education teachers would provide Sternke with purchase orders, which she would enter into the district's computer system for review and approval. Through that computer system, Sternke would enter bogus invoices for items she purchased for personal use, according to the documents.

In one case, she used the district's computer system to create a bogus $1,564.49 purchase order for American TV. She falsely wrote in the invoice, the purchase was for a HP laptop, when Sternke actually purchased a 50-inch TV console and 37-inch Sony TV for herself.

After preparing and submitting a bogus invoice, Sternke would pick up a check from the business office — not a normal payment process — and typically mailed the check to the vendor, but would occasionally use the check to make purchases at various stores including Menards, Pennys, Target, Wal-Mart, Best Buy and Kohl's.

The document also says Sternke used the funds to buy vacations, and purchase personal items for her family, often through gift cards.

Additionally, Sternke admitted to agents that she prepared false purchase orders in fall 2010 for products totaling $8,000. When the district issued checks, she used them to make payments on her personal credit cards.

Shorewood School District Business Manager Mark Boehlke was not available for comment Friday, however, he did tell the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Sternke was hired by the district in 1979 and is not currently receiving any retirement benefits from the district.

Boehlke couldn't explain how no red flags were raised over the 13 years Sternke was allegedly embezzling funds.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Former University of Wisconsin Marathon County Dorm Manager Suspected of Theft


Wausau police are recommending embezzlement charges be filed against the former the Residence Hall Operations Manager at UW Marathon County.

He's suspected of stealing more than $25,000 from students between June, 2012 and January, 2013.

Investigators say he encouraged them to pay him housing, food, parking and other fees in cash.

But instead of giving the money to the school, he kept it himself.

Police say a check of his financial records show he paid off thousands of dollars worth of overdue bills during that time.

The school discovered the problem in February, fired the man and called the police.

UWMC told investigators they would not require the students to re-pay the money that appears stolen. The school would just take the financial loss.

The dorm houses both UWMC and North Central Technical College students

Janesville, Wisconsin church secretary embezzled $88,000, police say

The former secretary of a Janesville church wrote nearly $90,000 in forged checks to herself over 10 months last year, according to police reports.

Carrie A. Kolanda, 30, of 9020 S. Nelson Road, Brodhead, was arrested May 14 on felony charges of forgery and theft of more than $10,000, according to Janesville police.

An accountant uncovered 70 checks Kolanda forged for herself from First Congregational United Church of Christ between January and October of 2012, according to police reports.

The checks were written from two church accounts, authorities said, adding up to $88,329.68.

The accountant, David Bagley, requested copies of checks cleared from those accounts last fall after he realized their balances were lower than he expected, police said.

Kolanda was fired in October and admitted to church officials she stole the money, authorities said.

Detective Chris Buescher found the checks were deposited into Anchor Bank accounts—one in Kolanda’s name and another in the names of Kolanda and her 29-year-old boyfriend Darrold F. Selby III, according to reports.

Her father has since repaid the church for what Kolanda stole, but church leaders decided to go to the police with their investigation in March, according to police reports.

Kolanda told police she started forging the checks when she ran out of money because of Selby’s drug addiction, authorities said.

“Carrie denied having any money stored away or saved as a result of this theft,” Janesville police Detective Chris Buescher wrote.

“She said all of the money … was gone from paying bills or his drug use.”

Police booked Kolanda May 14, before releasing her with a mandatory appearance in Rock County court June 17, according to police reports.

Woman indicted in Anchorage school embezzlement case

A 45-year-old woman has been indicted in the theft of more than $80,000 from East High School in Anchorage when she worked there.

Gayle White was indicted on two counts of scheming to defraud, theft and misapplication of property.

Prosecutors say the thefts occurred between August 2006 and June 2009 when White worked as the activities secretary before she left to work at Chugiak High School.

Prosecutors say an internal audit by the Anchorage School District showed accounting discrepancies for cash handled by White.

White's attorney, Pamela Dale, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

White, who was indicted May 24, pleaded guilty in 2011 to a theft case involving Chugiak High. White was accused of stealing money between November 2009 and March 2011 when she worked there.

Blissfield Boosters treasurer charged with embezzlement in Michigan

A Blissfield Athletic Boosters officer was arraigned Friday on a felony embezzlement charge in Lenawee County District Court for allegedly taking more than $33,000 since December 2009.
An attorney for Tara Lynn Rohlan said she is taking responsibility for the club’s missing funds and has pledged to quickly repay the money.
“She stepped forward when the incident came into view,” said attorney David Stimpson of Tecumseh. “She’s absolutely in disbelief over the poor decisions she made.”
Stimpson said the 44-year-old Blissfield woman’s family was shocked to learn she had taken money from the booster’s account while
serving as treasurer.
“No one had any idea it was happening,” he said.
Boosters president Paul LaRoy said he is hopeful the damage will be repaired from the incident he called a tragedy for everyone involved.
“It’s just a sad thing,” LaRoy said.
Students who benefit from money the booster club raises are the victims in the case, he said.
“I feel sorry for the kids. It’s a sad thing that kids do suffer over the whole thing,” LaRoy said.
He said he expects the money will be recovered. Accounting practices have also been changed to ensure the mistakes will not be repeated in the future, he said. The safeguards were not thought to be necessary among the group’s members, he said.
“You put your trust in good people and sometimes it goes wrong,” LaRoy said.
Blissfield Police Chief Jane Kelley said the boosters club filed a complaint on March 27 after discrepancies were discovered in bank statements. A forensic analysis of the accounts found that money was taken starting on Dec. 12, 2009.
Some large amounts were sometimes taken, Kelley said, then $18,000 was paid back in September 2010. Then more money was taken again after that, she said.
A audit found a total of $33,187.36 was taken, Kelley said. The amount still owed is about $15,000.
Stimpson said Rohlan intends to repay it all.
“She’s doing everything she can to make everyone whole,” he said.
She is “tearfully remorseful” and humiliated over her actions, Stimpson said.
Rohlan was scheduled to return to district court for a preliminary hearing on June 10. She remains free on personal recognizance.
The felony embezzlement count she is charged with carries a maximum 10-year prison term.

Blissfield Police say Tara Lynn Rohlan was a member of the athletic boosters board.

They say the president of the board noticed some financial discrepancies in March and had an audit done. They then discovered more than $53,000 had been embezzled since February of 2009.

The audit showed an $18,000 payback made by Rohlan in September, but police say she still owes more than $30,000.

The athletic boosters group did not want to comment, but police say security has been tightened and new safeguards are in place with the group to prevent this happening again.

Former Healdsburg soccer official charged with $51,000 embezzlement in California

A former Healdsburg Youth Soccer League president was charged Friday with three felonies in connection with the embezzlement of $51,000 from the organization.

Mitzi Giron, 30, is accused of stealing the money over an 18-month span ending in January and using it for personal expenses.

She is the second league president in less than three years to be accused of embezzling from the league. Her predecessor, Kyle Hoffman, 38, was sentenced to nine months in 2011 after being convicted of taking $58,000.

Giron, who was arrested last month but is out on $10,000 bail, is suspected of using the league debit card to withdraw money from its bank account from July 1, 2011, to Jan. 31. Authorities initially estimated the theft at $30,000.

She’s charged with grand theft-embezzlement, unlawful use of an ATM card and possession of a stolen property. She faces three years and eight months in jail if convicted, prosecutor Bill Brockley said.

Giron is expected to enter a plea at her next court date on June 17.

Conn. woman admits embezzling from synagogue

The former president of the Beth El Synagogue pleaded guilty on Friday to mail fraud in the embezzlement of more than $500,000 in synagogue funds, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney.

During her time as vice president and then president of the synagogue, Jodi Churchill, 45, allegedly used embezzled funds to pay school-related expenses for her children, lease a horse for one of her children, pay vehicle expenses and buy airline tickets and hotels for personal travel. She also gave some of the stolen money to a relative, the U.S. Attorney said.

Churchill, a resident of Orange, opened a checking account and a money market account in the name of the synagogue and then had the bank statements sent to her home, the U.S. Attorney said.

Between June and December 2011, Churchill deposited more than $300,000 in synagogue funds into those accounts. Investigators found that she made more than 60 unauthorized withdrawals of the funds ranging in amount from $200 to $5,000, the U.S. Attorney said.

Churchill pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud before U.S. Magistrate Judge Donna F. Martinez, the U.S. Attorney said. She is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 5.

Churchill faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.