Saturday, September 28, 2013

Caledonia school employee on leave during embezzlement probe in Mississippi

A Caledonia high school guidance counselor has been placed on paid administrative leave amid embezzlement allegation.

Superintendent Lynn Wright would not identify the school employee or confirm the administrative leave citing the matter as a personnel issue but multiple sources within the district said the counselor, who has been employed with the district for six years, was placed on administrative leave Wednesday afternoon. Sources said approximately $3,000 has been reported missing from the high school's office. The money, which was collected from transcript fees, was reportedly left in an envelope in a vault, but it is unclear how many people may have had access to the vault.

Wright said an allegation was made last week and the incident is under investigation by the Lowndes County Sheriff's Department.

"Until we get all the facts, we don't want to speculate," Wright said. "There are too many unknowns. We want to get to the bottom of it and we want to hold the person accountable if something was done wrong or inappropriate but we don't want to hurt anybody that's innocent.

Cameron Teacher Resigned Prior to His Indictment in New Mexico

Earlier this month, a New Mexico grand jury indicted William “Kal” Kalinowski on on 10 counts of embezzlement and fraud over $20,000.

In 2011, Kalinowski was hired by the Framingham Public Schools to teach social studies at Cameron Middle School.

On Aug. 25, at 7:57 p.m. Kalinowski submitted his resignation to Cameron Principal Michelle Melick said Framingham Superintendent of Schools Stacy Scott in a written statement very early Sunday morning.

As of Saturday night, Sept. 21, Kalinowski was still listed on the website as a teacher.

Kalinowski was not employed with the school system when he was indicted, but did work for the school system during New Mexico's Regulation and Licensing Department's two-year investigation.

Scott in his email to Patch wrote "while I believe an investigation is being restarted, it does not appear that any indictments or convictions have occurred."

A criminal summons was issued ordering Kalinowski, 68, to appear in the First Judicial District Court in Santa Fe for an arraignment on Oct. 7, at 10 a.m.

Each count against Kalinowski is a second-degree felony carrying a maximum penalty of nine years in prison.

The case is being handled by the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department’s Special Prosecutor Scott Mullins under the jurisdiction of First Judicial District Attorney Angela Pacheco.

Kalinowki, who lives in Duxbury, talked to a New Mexico TV station about the case. Click here to watch.

The case involved Kalinowski's life as a homebuilder in New Mexico.

Scott said references were checked prior to Kalinowski being hired with Framingham Public Schools.

"Pursuant to MA law at that time, a MA CORI was completed, said Scott. A Massachusetts CORI only reports offenses committed in Massachusetts, not in any of the other 49 states.

In 2012, Massachusetts law was changed to require national fingerprints for school employees.

Scott said the state "has not provided steps to schools for processing the fingerprints."

Under the new 2012 law, new teachers, school employees, bus drivers, early education and care and out-of-school care providers, must undergo state and national background checks starting in the 2013-14 school year.
The 2012 law also called for all current employees to undergo national background checks before the start of the 2016-17 school year.

Woman convicted on all counts for stealing $55,000 from small Mobile, Alabama church

 Beneath all the receipts, bank statements and other paperwork, it was very simple: Evelyn Mace “duped” the members of First Independent Methodist Church to the tune of about $55,000, and a jury of her peers convicted her of it.

Such was the opinion of Assistant District Attorney Martha Tierney after a jury convicted Mace, 61, on five counts related to funds she stole from the Halls Mill Road church between 2009 and 2011. The verdict came down Friday in Mobile County Circuit Court Judge Robert Smith’s courtroom.

Mace was convicted of two different counts of theft – first-degree theft and first-degree theft by deception – as well as three counts of felony tax evasion. In other words, not only did she steal, both outright and through “larceny by trick,” she also neglected to claim her “ill-gotten gains” on her taxes, Tierney said. And she did it to a church family who, at times, remembered her fondly.

“It’s unfortunate when something like this happens,” Tierney said. “It was a betrayal of her church, it was a betrayal of her friends, it was a betrayal of the trust.”

Mace, a Realtor associated with Prudential Cooper & Co. Inc., was hired at First Independent as a bookkeeper, and during the three years included in the indictment, used the $55,000 she stole in numerous ways, including for her personal utility bills and to feed a gambling problem that found her at Mississippi Gulf Coast casinos, according to testimony.

“Her trick was to get (church leaders) to sign checks in blank, clipped to an invoice, payable to herself or to petty cash,” Tierney said. “The elders were so trusting.

“Internal control is not the first thing in the minds of church people for whom love and trust are most predominant.”

Sharee Kinard, who took over the books on a volunteer basis after Mace was fired by the church, wept on the witness stand during the trial, describing her family and Mace’s as friends who spent time together on Wednesday nights at the small church, which had a total congregation of only a couple hundred people. Around 40 people could be expected at the church for any given service, according to testimony.

“She was very special,” Kinard said. “I loved her like a sister in Christ for sure.”

For Tierney, the challenge in white-collar cases is always in finding a way to present expansive financial records to the jurors in a way that’s simple and direct. And to that end she had high praise for Agent Randy Day, with the State Revenue Department.

“He is one of the best forensic accountants I have ever worked with,” Tierney said. “He happily, eagerly and dedicatedly followed thousands of records to organize and categorize the five different schemes (Mace) used to take money.”

The two counts of theft carry sentences of five years in prison each, with each count of tax evasion carrying the possibility of two-to-twenty years, according to Tierney. A restitution hearing will be held within 30 days to determine how much Mace will be required to pay back to the church, Tierney said.

At some point during the schemes, Mace put some of her own money back into the church’s accounts, she said, and the restitution amount will likely affect the final amount. It could be less than the $55,000 stolen, Tierney said.

After the jury rendered its verdict, defense attorney Joe Dennis filed an oral notice of appeal. An appeal date has not been set, and citing such Dennis said he could not comment specifically on the details of the case. He wasn’t sure whether or not he would be representing Mace on appeal.

Dennis did, however, share a compliment for his opponent across the courtroom aisle.

“We’ve got the finest DA’s office and the finest law enforcement and they put on a great case,” he said.

Suspects plead guilty; plan to return money to PTA in Michigan

Melissa Moore and Adam Youngs entered guilty pleas Monday in Ottawa County Circuit Court to charges of embezzlement of between $1,000 and $20,000. The pleas were in exchange for time to pay back the money to the organization.

Moore resigned as PTA treasurer in late May. She told Judge Ed Post that she converted the stolen money, which her attorney said was just over $20,000, for her own use.

Youngs told the judge he “benefited from the conversion” and knew what his wife was doing.

Their attorney, James Piper, noted that the agreement called for a repayment on Monday of $9,700, but some of that money needs to come from the bond money they had paid.

Post agreed that they could pay $8,700 on Monday, and then a minimum of $500 a month for eight months to pay the rest of the amount.

A Nov. 4 sentencing date will be delayed for eight months if the couple is meeting the terms of the plea agreement.

Ferry Elementary School Principal Steve Avram told the Tribune for a June story that he was notified a week earlier about discrepancies in the PTA’s checking and savings accounts.

The Grand Haven Department of Public Safety announced Moore’s arrest on July 9. Her husband was arraigned in Ottawa County District Court on July 31.

The police investigation of the embezzlement covered a time frame of Aug. 1, 2012, to May 29, 2013, Post noted during Monday's hearing.

The missing money caused confusion, but PTA members were still able to put on the school's end-of-the-year celebration.

PTA Vice President Andrea Dress said the embezzlement affected a lot of families and left the organization with a mess to deal with.

“They’ve stolen quite a bit from me personally — my time,” she said. “They’ve taken quite a lot.”

PTA President Melissa Poll, who attended Monday's hearing, said: “We’re excited as we leave today. I’m hopeful of getting anything back.”

Poll said they would address the embezzlement situation at the PTA's first meeting of the new school year, which is set for 7 tonight in the school’s art room. The meeting will be moved to the gym if there is a large crowd, she said.

Poll said parent and staff support has been “fabulous” throughout the summer.

“I do 'school of choice' to send my children to Ferry,” she said. “I couldn’t be more happy with my decision.”

Former teacher union boss admits to embezzlement in Wyoming

Former Wyoming Area School District teacher union president Lisa Barrett has been charged with embezzling more than $30,000 in union funds and has worked out a plea bargain with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

The U.S. attorney issued a press release and filed court documents that include information outlining the charges, the plea agreement and a statement from Barrett. The plea agreement must be approved by a judge in the Middle District court.

Barrett, a high school career technology teacher, resigned her position as union president and requested a sabbatical from work in February at the same time Luzerne County District Attorney Stephanie Salavantis confirmed her office had agreed to look into reports of possible missing funds.

The U.S. attorney is charging Barrett, 48, with one count of embezzlement of funds of a labor organization. The charge has a maximum penalty of five years in prison followed by three years probation and a $250,000 fine, though any sentence is likely to be much lower for a first-time offender.

The plea agreement does not specify what the U.S. attorney might recommend if the agreement is accepted by a judge, but notes the office will recommend a reduction in the sentencing guidelines for the admission of guilt. A judge does not have to accept the attorney recommendation, or even accept the plea agreement.

Pennsylvania State Education Association Northeast Region Spokesman Paul Shemansky said the union had no comment other than to note Barrett is no longer a union member or a teacher and her defense was handled by her own attorney, Christopher Powell, not by the union.

Shemansky also said the PSEA does “offer training on managing money” and that there are “checks and balances” to try to prevent such embezzlement.

Barrett’s written statement filed with the court is a series of acknowledgements that she understands the legal consequences of the plea agreement.

Local PTA Treasurer Facing Embezzlement Felony in Michigan

Prosecutors say Tammy McGrath took nearly $10,000 from a Sheridian Road PTA over the last year and now she faces felony charges for embezzlement.

Our Nick Perreault spoke with the prosecuting attorney and school district about how this happened and what's next for McGrath.

"The defendant in this matter could have been having some financial difficulties could have been some motivation," Assistant Prosecutor Michael Clarizio said.

But that motivation has Lansing school bus driver Tammy McGrath in the hot seat.

She's accused of taking between 7-$8,000 from a Sheridan School PTA, while serving as treasurer between October of 2012 and august of this year.

Assistant prosecuting attorney Michael Clarizio says this case started with a tip from another employee.

"There was a complaint made from the school about possible funds being embezzled or missing and that complaint was made to the Dewitt Township Police Department," Clarizio said.

The prosecutor says those who take money like this usually have gambling issues, are involved with drugs or they're strapped for cash.

He says the evidence seems to show McGrath needed money.

The assistant prosecuting attorney says Tammy McGrath didn't hasn't been charged in the past for embezzlement or criminal charges of any kind.

McGrath has been suspended from her duties with Lansing school district without pay and the district said if a criminal investigation is underway, "we step aside for law enforcement authorities.:

The bus driver waved her preliminary hearing, so this will go straight to trial at circuit court.

LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) - As treasurer of the local PTA, prosecutors say parents thought they could trust that same bus driver with their money.

But now she faces a felony and if convicted, she could spend up to five years behind bars.

Between October 2012 and August 2013, Tammy McGrath is accused of taking between $7,000 and $8,000 from the Sheridan Road Elementary Parent Teachers Association.

According to Lansing schools an employee tipped off the Dewitt police. It was handed over to the Clinton County prosecutor's office. That's because while it's part of the Lansing district, the Sheridan Road School sits just across the Ingham-Clinton County line.

Now according to the Assistant Prosecutor, McGrath doesn't have a criminal history, but they think they know what prompted her to do this.

"Most People involved in embezzlement have an issue with gambling, drugs, or money and she appears to be financial strained," said Michael Clarizio, Asst. Prosecutor, Clinton County.

On Wednesday, McGrath waived her preliminary exam and the case is moving on to trial.

Philadelphia Man Charged With Embezzling Thousands From Montco Church

Authorities in Montgomery County have arrested a church bookkeeper, charging him with embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from the house of worship.

Police say James Moody was hired by the Victory Fellowship Church in Lower Providence Township in late 2010, but soon after he started working he directed the church’s payroll company to deposit money in his accounts, even though the church was paying him directly.

Over two years, police say, he stole more than $156,000 and is now facing theft and related charges

Montgomery County DA Risa Ferman says their investigation also found that Moody committed multiple counts of identity theft.

“It is our belief that Mr. Moody provided false information so that he could misdirect them and so that they would not find out about a prior conviction here in Montgomery County,” Ferman said today.

The DA says the 47-year-old Philadelphia man spent time behind bars in Montgomery County for stealing more than $21,000 while he was controller of the county’s nonprofit Special Olympics organization.

Moody is being held in lieu of $250,000 cash bai

Ex-VCU Prof Gets Suspended Embezzlement Sentence in Virginia

 A retired Virginia Commonwealth University professor convicted of embezzlement has received a suspended sentence.
James E. Hardigan had pleaded guilty in May to embezzling more than $137,000 from the VCU Dental Faculty Practice Association.
The 69-year-old retired dental professor was sentenced Tuesday in Richmond Circuit Court. Judge Bradley B. Cavedo fined Hardigan $2,500 and gave him a 10-year suspended sentence.
Cavedo said Hardigan has made restitution and cooperated in the investigation.
Hardigan tells the Richmond Times-Dispatch ( ) that his sentence is fair and he appreciates the judge's decision. He declined to comment on why he took the money.
Hardigan retired from VCU in 2004.

Accountant may have embezzled $3M in Rialto Unified lunch money, says investigator in California

 Judith Oakes, the former school district accountant, may have embezzled more than $3 million in lunch money over 14 years, according to an investigator hired by the district.

Rancho Cucamonga-based private investigator Jeff Stewart’s firm, Stewart Investigations Services, was hired to do a forensic audit of the nutrition services department by the Rialto Unified school board. At the board meeting Wednesday night, Stewart reported that Oakes may have embezzled $1.8 million over eight years, and more than $3.1 million over 14 years.

“It’s a sad moment,” school board President Joseph Ayala said Wednesday. “Not much to say right now.”

Oakes, who was an accountant with the district’s nutrition services department, was arrested on Aug. 7 on suspicion of embezzlement. According to a Rialto Police Department search warrant, she was recorded on video stuffing school lunch money into her bra.

The nutrition services department has an annual budget of $16 million, according to Rialto Unified spokeswoman Syeda Jafri.

Attorney Trevin Sims of the Los Angeles office of Lozano Smith, which represents the district, advised the school board to release only limited information at this time, as Stewart’s investigation “implicates a number of people.”

Oakes is the only person arrested, but no charges have been filed against her.

An attempt to reach her Thursday at her San Bernardino home was unsuccessful.

“Obviously, we have issues that we need to look into and that we need to work out,” board Vice President Edgar Montes said at the board meeting. “If our house here in Rialto is dirty, we need to clean that house.”

There will soon be a fifth investigation of the Oakes matter, Montes told the standing-room-only crowd in the board chambers. The Rialto Police Department, San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office and San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools Office are conducting investigations into the Rialto Unified nutrition services department, along with Stewart Investigations Services.

The California Department of Education told Rialto Unified this week that it will be investigating the district as well.

And Stewart’s investigation may be continuing: When asked, he wouldn’t confirm his investigation was closed.

Rialto Unified has revised its accounting and security practices since Oakes’ arrest, according to a news release from the district Thursday afternoon.

“It’s unfortunate when people fall,” Ayala said. “How do we want to be regarded here in Rialto?”

Oakes could not be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.

There will be a special closed-session board meeting to discuss the status of the investigation on Oct. 2.

Preliminary Hearing Scheduling Postponed For Former GUSD Employee Accused of Embezzlement

The preliminary hearing date scheduling of Cynthia Schlig, the former Glendora Unified School District employee accused of embezzling funds from the school district, has been postponed to Oct. 16, according Los Angeles Criminal Courts.

Schlig, 57 of Upland, was arrested Aug. 20 after a police investigation found evidence that Schlig misappropriated $350,000 of district funds.

Schlig and her attorney Alison Matsumoto appeared in court Thusda where counsel asked that the matter be continued over to a later date.

Schlig’s bail is set at $140,000 and she remains in custody.

Friday, September 20, 2013

'Ghost employee' of Treasurer's office sentenced in Missouri

A man formerly on the payroll of the St. Louis Treasurer's office has been sentenced to two years in federal prison for collecting a paycheck without working and diverting about $240,000 to a now-defunct charter school.
U.S. District Judge Audrey Fleissig sentenced 71-year-old Fred Robinson on Tuesday. He must also serve three years of probation after his release from prison.
Robinson was convicted in March of wire fraud and federal program theft related to the embezzlement of money from the Paideia Academy, a failed city charter school where Robinson was chairman of the school board.
Authorities say Robinson collected more than $175,000 as a "ghost employee" of the Treasurer's office

PTA thefts go to grand jury in Mississippi

A felony embezzlement case involving two former PTA board members at Olive Branch Intermediate School is expected to be presented to the grand jury next month.

The alleged theft, which occurred in a six-month period during the last school year, has been reported at more than $20,000 but Olive Branch police Sgt. Jeff Abbott declined to confirm the amount.

"It is not anything confirmed yet," Abbott said. He identified the two people charged in the case as Kimberly Maxwell and Tameral Johnson.

Police have estimated that the embezzlement occurred between August 2012 and February of 2013.
Abbott said the investigation produced no evidence that any school personnel were involved in the embezzlement.

Abbott said he could not provide any further details at this time.

The Mississippi PTA issued a statement from Jackson that it is aware of the embezzlement charges and that the case will go to a grand jury soon.

"While we are unable to speak for the Olive Branch Intermediate PTA, or comment on the charges, we will continue to support this local PTA and the good work they do for children in their local school as we do for all the PTAs across the state," the statement says.

Further, it says, "While it may be hard to acknowledge, theft, fraud and embezzlement are pervasive in today's society. Fraud costs U.S. organizations over $400 billion annually. The average organization loses approximately 6 percent of its total annual revenue to these abuses."

It also says the state PTA provides all local PTAs with leadership training and that more than four million PTA members across the country also have access to "e-learning courses" through the National PTA website.  Courses include "Preventing Theft in Your PTA."

Efforts to reach an Olive Intermediate PTA leader were unsuccessful.

Cullowhee Valley librarian faces charge of embezzlement in North Carolina

Law enforcement officers have charged the media coordinator (librarian) at Cullowhee Valley Elementary School with larceny by an employee.

Patricia Russell Dunford, 45, of Sylva, was arrested Sunday, Sept. 8. She was released from jail that same day after posting a $5,000 bond, according to the Jackson County Clerk of Court office.

The amount of money Dunford allegedly embezzled was not disclosed in court documents.

Jackson County Schools Superintendent Mike Murray said Dunford has been suspended without pay. The media coordinator has been employed by Jackson County Schools for 11 years.

Two Florida Teachers Charged with Embezzlement from Union

For more than five years, Sheryl Daniels and Rhoshonda Herring stole from their union without detection. Now they're getting more than their share of unwanted attention. On August 2, the two women, respectively, former president and former treasurer of United Teachers of Suwannee County (UTSC), turned themselves in to the Sheriff's Office of Suwannee County, Florida for arrest in the face of evidence that they had embezzled UTSC funds in excess of $50,000. Last Monday, September 9, Herring and Daniels each pleaded not guilty to one count of grand theft. The union is a joint affiliate of the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers.
The defendants have a tough road ahead if they take this to trial. Daniels, 56, and Herring, 39, each a resident of Live Oak, Fla., were public school teachers in Suwannee County, Florida, located in the northern part of the state between Jacksonville to the east and the panhandle to the west. Daniels had retired from teaching by the time of her arrest; Herring soon after her own arrest submitted a letter of resignation to the local school board, which the board accepted. There isn't much purpose of sticking around. According to UTSC records, Herring and Daniels during January 2008-May 2013 wrote more than 150 unauthorized union checks. Herring wrote 32 checks to Daniels worth $12,234, while Daniels wrote Herring 109 checks worth $38,638. In addition, the pair signed a combined 17 checks made out to cash totaling $5,764. Grand total: $56,636. As union treasurer, Herring also allegedly concealed the thefts in financial records.
The thefts were detected when officials of United Teachers this year realized the numbers weren't adding up. The union conducted an internal probe, concluding Daniels and Herring were the culprits, and filed a complaint with the sheriff's office. By the start of August, the pair decided to turn themselves in. Daniels and Herring face a motion hearing on October 7 and a pre-trial hearing on November 4. At this point, they might as well change their plea.

Booster club leader guilty of embezzlement in California

Band members and boosters from Costa Mesa High School lined up in court Thursday to scold a volunteer for the "utter monstrosity" of her crime: stealing tens of thousands of dollars from their booster club's coffers.
Jennifer Borders-Piatti, the former band booster club president, pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $50,000 from the group during 2011 and 2012.
She faced a maximum of three years in prison for a felony charge of grand theft, but as part of a plea agreement, an Orange County Superior Court judge sentenced her to a year in jail and three years of probation and ordered her to pay restitution — $51,974.32, what she stole plus interest.

"The impact of what has happened has been very devastating to our program," said band director Sandy Gilboe as she stood at a podium facing Borders-Piatti. "This has really been a betrayal to us. It's been a betrayal to me."
Boosters said the program has grown since Borders-Piatti's arrest last year, stretching depleted funds even further.
"We can't afford new hats, and I have 20 new kids who need hats," said Colleen Tinus, a booster and mother of a student, before the sentencing. "I'm totally disgusted with what she did."
It's unclear when Borders-Piatti will pay back the program.
Prosecutor Anne Selin said she'd hoped to have a check for boosters at Thursday's court date but that Borders-Piatti was unable to produce one.
The probation department will set up a plan to manage repayment.
"Sweat, blood and tears stained that money, but she didn't care," said Loralee Sepsey. The Costa Mesa High School senior
called Borders-Piatti's ability to look band members in the eye now "alien to me."
"Honestly, your honor, she's only sorry she got caught," Loralee said.
Costa Mesa police arrested Borders-Piatti, who was 50 at the time, in October after searching her house and finding evidence that linked her to the theft of funds.
At the time, law-enforcement officials said she had been making credit card purchases and ATM withdrawals from the booster's account that were unrelated to the band.
"This was no mistake, not a one-time thing," said Mariel LeValley, the new booster president.
LeValley said boosters discovered trips to Victoria's Secret and checks written to Piatti's personal business.
"Your honor, our boosters club doesn't need to go shopping at Ralphs every week or pay the Time Warner Cable bill," LeValley said.
Borders-Piatti nodded when LeValley asked her if she understood that stealing for own selfish needs crossed the line, particularly for a parent volunteer.
Throughout the boosters' and students' statements, Borders-Piatti sat about 10 feet in front of the speakers and often bit her lower lip as she looked them in the eyes.
She responded briefly to the 20 people in the audience before receiving her sentence and reporting to probation across the hall.
"I am so very sorry. I have no excuse," Borders-Piatti said, later adding that she wouldn't go into why she did what she did.
"My children and my husband have nothing to do with this," she said. "Please don't take it out on them."
Her priorities, she said, are mending her family and repaying her debt to the band.
"I do love you all," she said. "I know you find that hard to believe

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Business theft a problem

Few business embezzlement cases make the news. And not because they aren’t happening. In fact, the meager publicity of these cases might be one reason they continue to proliferate. The thieves move on to victimize again and business owners don’t know how often and how easily employees commit fraud. They also get no tips on how to prevent it.

That’s why I’m writing about Ashley K. Coffey, who is scheduled to be sentenced on Monday. If the judge goes along with the plea agreement, the 25-year-old Lehigh Acres woman will get 36 months in prison and 27 years of probation for stealing more than $250,000 from the Sonic Automotive Group where she worked as an office manager.

According to the Lee County Sheriff’s Office affidavit, Coffey started embezzling from Sonic in October 2008. She would access accounts at one of Sonic’s dealerships, Volkswagen of Fort Myers, Mercedes Benz of Fort Myers or Honda of Fort Myers, cancel an old customers’ extended warranty protection plan and then have the system issue a refund check. Before the check printed, Coffey would override it and put her name on it. Then she would forge the managers’ signatures.

Bank records show Coffey issued 172 fraudulent checks over 3.5 years, ranging in value from $446 to $2,188. She used ATMs to deposit the checks, avoiding the scrutiny of tellers.

The scheme went undetected for years as Coffey, “worked her way up,” to office manager, the affidavit stated. It wasn’t until the spring of 2012 a comptroller reviewed Coffey’s work and found the fraudulent checks.

In January, Coffey was charged with first degree larceny-grand theft of more than $100,000.

One reason embezzlement cases often don’t get prosecuted is because most business owners just want the money back, said Ruth Crane, managing partner with Auditors Inc. in Maryland.

And a lot of embezzlement goes undetected because no employer wants to believe employees are stealing from the company. “They would rather ignore it,” Crane said.

They also want to avoid embarrassment of having the theft revealed, because there is usually something the business owner could have done to prevent it from happening, Crane said.

Business owners are often too trusting, too tired and or too busy to do what’s necessary to prevent fraud, Crane said.

Yet there are simple things an owner can do, Crane said, such as having two people trained to do two jobs and then switching the responsibility back and forth each month. That way, one is always looking over the other one’s shoulder, she said.

Gail Wright, a professor of accounting at Florida Gulf Coast University, said small businesses often don’t have enough workers to divide up accounting duties. In that case, the owner needs to be involved and establish internal controls. For example, anytime there is a system with an override capability — such as changing the name on a check – controls should be put in place to require an approval of the override, Wright said.

“If she is keeping the books she shouldn’t have access to check stock at all,” said Jimmy Allen, a certified public accountant and certified fraud examiner in Tampa.

Allen also suggests getting an outside firm to perform cash reconciliations every month. Allen said for most small businesses, this is a $100 a month or less expense.

Another suggestion from Allen is to take a “holistic view” and identify the points where an employee could steal from the company. And not only cash but inventory and services too.

“It’s all common sense. There’s an asset, how can someone take it,” Allen said. “Take a few friends out to lunch and talk about the ways someone could steal from you and then put controls in place to prevent it. “

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Girl Scout Embezzlement case delayed with new attorney in Colorado

The recent switch in public defenders serving Morgan County District Court again led to a continuance in the case against a Fort Morgan woman for allegedly embezzling local Girl Scout funds.

Jennifer Streit-Jensen, 33, faces charges in Morgan County District Court of class 4 felony theft of $1,000 to $20,000 and class 4 felony computer crime theft of $1,000 to $20,000 in connection with money that went missing from local Girl Scout troops.

Public Defender Lisa Herbst, who moved from Adams County District Court to Morgan County District Court in August, told District Court Judge Douglas Vannoy on Thursday that she needed more time to go through the evidence to prepare her case.

"We have a very large amount of discovery," Herbst said, adding that the evidence was on a computer disk and she and her client were going through it. "It's kind of an accounting issue and an accounting problem."

She said she was trying to figure out what all of the bank statements in that evidence could mean for her client.

Herbst asked for another continuance to a disposition hearing.

Dep. District Attorney Zachary Balkin did not object, but he did request that Vannoy make this the last disposition hearing continuance.

"I realize that they're changing attorneys, but this case is getting a little long in the tooth," he told the judge. "A representative from the Girl Scouts is present, and they are getting very frustrated" with delays.

The prosecution previously alleged Streit-Jensen took $6,427 worth of funds from area Girl Scout troops 3334, 357 and 108 between April 2 and Aug. 4, 2012.

Balkin added that many of the alleged victims in the case, "the actual Girl Scouts, are graduating and going off to college. They're not going to be around" to see the case's resolution.

Vannoy said he agreed with Balkin's concerns.

"We need a plea, a disposition or we need to go to trial if that's what's going to happen," he told the attorneys and Streit-Jensen.

He set the case over to 1:30 p.m. Oct. 29 for either a disposition hearing or an arraignment.

Streit-Jensen was not arrested in this case, instead receiving a summons in late January to appear in February to hear the charges against her.

Vannoy said her summons would continue until then.

If the case were to go to trial and Streit-Jensen were convicted on both class 4 felony charges, she could face two to six years in prison, but she also may be eligible for a probationary sentence.

A plea deal, which is at the District Attorney's Office's discretion, could net a more lenient sentence and conviction on only one felony charge or even on lesser charges.

Accused in Simon Fraser University embezzlement case reportedly used false credentials while working for Cultus Lake Park Board

Questions have been raised about the credentials of the man most recently in control of the Cultus Lake Park Board's (CLPB) finances.
Siamak Saidi, who faces a civil suit and a number of criminal charges connected to the alleged misappropriation of more than $800,000 from Simon Fraser University (SFU), has been using a designation he is not permitted to use, according to the Certified Management Accountants of B.C. (CMABC).
And the business he was connected to, Siamak Saidi Ltd., "is not and has never been licensed to carry on the practice of public accounting in British Columbia," according to the Chartered Accountants of British Columbia (CABC).
On Tuesday, the CABC issued a public notice-which appeared as an ad in the Vancouver Sun-that said Siamak Saidi Ltd. is not "entitled to use the designation 'Chartered Accountant' or the initials 'CA'."
Saidi is currently in jail awaiting his next court appearance in Vancouver on Oct. 3. The results of an internal audit in 2012 by SFU were turned over to the RCMP, which led to four charges in August of this year: fraud over $5,000, theft over $5,000, forgery and using forged documents.
Saidi was terminated from his SFU job in January 2012-unrelated to the alleged fraud-and was hired by the CLPB as manager of financial services later that same year.
In email correspondence while employed at Cultus Lake, Saidi put the letters CA and CMA after his name, the latter standing for certified management accountant.
A spokesperson for CMABC told the Times that Saidi was a student member for one year, 2001-2002, and that when the organization found out last month he was using the designation, he was sent a letter ordering him to stop.
After the charges came to light in August, the CLPB put him on leave until further notice. The board said staff had not found any unauthorized financial transactions after a review of accounts and investments was done.
As of Wednesday, the website for Siamak Saidi Ltd.,, had the Chartered Accountants of Canada logo on the site.
A call Wednesday to the phone number listed on the website was answered by a woman who said Saidi "used to use this office." When asked about the CABC's concerns, the woman said the website was in the process of being taken down.
CLPB chair Sacha Peter-who incidentally is a CMA himself-declined to comment on the case as it is before the courts.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Former Lodge Grass school clerk guilty of embezzlement in Montana

 A former payroll clerk at Lodge Grass Public Schools has pleaded guilty to federal charges for stealing from the school district by issuing herself a partial paycheck even though she had been paid via direct deposit.

Forty-four-year-old Kaylene Shane Red Wolf of Hardin pleaded guilty Thursday in Helena to theft from a local government receiving federal funds. She acknowledged taking at least $10,000, but prosecutors say the total amount is still to be determined.

Charging documents alleged the thefts took place between November 2011 and August 2012.

Red Wolf told investigators she intended to repay the money, but was having financial difficulties.

U.S. District Judge Sam Haddon scheduled sentencing for Jan. 6 in Helena and continued Red Wolf's release.

Police investigate possible embezzlement at Papa John's on Missouri State University campus

Police are investigating thefts of money over several months from a food service vendor on Missouri State University’s campus.

Spokeswoman Lisa Cox said police are “investigating possible embezzlement” by employees at Papa John’s Pizza in the Plaster Student Union.

“Cases of suspicion have been documented over time,” Cox said. No arrests have been made.

According to a report released Tuesday, the thefts have been happening since early May.

The report lists Chartwells — a food service management company that was hired by the university — as the victim.

An MSU Board of Governors decision in April 2011 approved a 13-year contract worth an estimated $29 million with Chartwells. For 15 years prior to that, MSU had used Sodexo.

Chartwells polled students and made changes to the restaurant lineup at the student union, including adding Papa John’s.

Chartwells declined to comment on the incident.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Librarian charged with embezzlement in North Carolina

A Jackson County school librarian is suspended without pay following embezzlement charges. Patricia Dunford worked at the Cullowhee Valley School. She's charged with taking an undisclosed amount of money from the school system between August 2012 through May of this year. Residents like Tammy Mathis say they're surprised. "I don't know her personally and everything.  But it does surprise me working with kids and stuff here in our community," said Mathis. Dunford is set to be in court on September 24th. She says she eventually wants to tell News 13 her side of the story

University of Louisville hiring outside auditor in wake of embezzlement cases

Following a spate of high-profile cases of embezzlement and misused funds, University of Louisville trustees agreed to take more aggressive steps to safeguard the school’s finances.

The board-approved changes Thursday that include hiring an outside auditor to review all internal audits dating to 2007 and financial policies at the health science campus and to perform other functions.

Since 2008, authorities have alleged that U of L employees have stolen, misspent or mishandled at least $7.6 million at the health science campus, at the law school, in the business school and the athletic department’s ticket office.

“If somebody is determined to steal, it’s very hard to prevent that from happening, but we’re going to put more checks and balances in place,” said Dr. David Dunn, U of L’s vice president of health affairs, who oversees the health science campus where the most recent thefts occurred.

The board’s audit committee approved the plan after meeting in executive session for more than an hour Thursday morning. The full board approved the measure later in the day without discussion.

Federal prosecutors recently alleged that Perry Chadwyck “Chad” Vaughn, executive director of the school’s Department of Family and Geriatric Medicine, stole as much as $2 million.

The allegations arose only after a co-worker raised questions with auditors about how he could afford Carribbean trips and a fleet of luxury cars on a $105,000 salary. The government alleges that he was writing checks to himself from the department and three associated medical practices for which he managed the finances.

John Olash, Vaughn’s lawyer, has said the government is conducting an extensive forensic review of Vaughn's bank records, adding that it could be a while before he is charged.

U of L President James Ramsey noted that most of the checks in the case were written on the medical practice accounts and not on official U of L accounts, making it difficult for the university to catch.

Ramsey said the outside auditor will largely focus on private medical practices associated with U of L but also will look at other areas of the university to ensure questionable spending is being flagged and investigated.

The plan also calls for additional training for those authorized to sign university checks, and it intends to bring all finance operations under a central financial “service center.” Different organizations and departments at U of L now have independent financial management offices.

“We’re going to have them (auditors) look at our bank accounts, we’re going to also begin to move forward as quickly as possible ... to a centralized financial management program,” Ramsey said.

Under the new financial oversight plan, the school will be given authority to look at audited finances of outside organizations with ties to the university and the outside auditor will search banks within 50 miles of Louisville to find all university-related accounts that weren’t authorized by the board of trustees.

Such accounts could be repositories for clinical funds as well as grant funds.

Ramsey said spot audits will be an important part of the new financial oversight system.

“We’re going to use the external firm to help do some surprise audits, which we haven’t had the staff to do before. We’re going to look at the entire university,” he said.

The misappropriation of funds at U of L have come from a variety of sectors.

In July, former Brandeis Law School admissions director Brandon Lee Hamilton was indicted on charges of promising $2.4 million more in law school scholarships than the school had available.

In 2011, former employee Kerry Johnson was charged with stealing more than $100,000 from the school’s ticket office.

That same year, Alisha Ward, who worked in the College of Business, was charged with stealing $463,636 from the student Equine Riding and Racing Club.

Also that year, dental professor Michael H. Martin was found dead in his office of an apparent suicide after he was interviewed by university police for allegedly misusing a university credit card for a $353,875 National Institutes of Health grant that he directed.

And in 2008, former education school Dean Robert Felner was charged with fraudulently obtaining $2.3 million in grant money.

Ramsey said the school believes its old policies and procedures were sound but said the changes will help “reduce the number of places where human or systemic breakdowns might occur.

Director charged with embezzling from Orange, Massachusetts youth soccer organization

The Recreation Association’s soccer director has been charged with embezzling thousands in donations and sports fees.

Jason P. Vautour, 34, of 27 Sandrah Drive, was arraigned Monday on a felony charge of larceny over $250 by embezzlement and intimidating a witness.

More than $45,000 had gone into and out of a checking account opened by Vautour since he opened it in 2009, days after he became soccer director, said Orange Police Chief Robert Haigh Jr.

“Some of the transactions on the account were completely legitimate” and went toward Orange Recreation Association projects and activities, said Haigh.

However, not all the account’s activity seems legitimate, the chief said. Police are still working to attach a dollar amount to the alleged illegitimate activity.

“We have (records of) debit card transactions at restaurants, bars, liquor stores, gas stations and supermarkets,” Haigh said.

Haigh said Vautour also used $3,000 of the recreation association’s money to put a down payment on a Humvee SUV for himself.

He then asked a donor to invoice the association $3,000 for a trailer that was given to the association, said Haigh, in an attempt to cover up the missing money used for the down-payment.

The investigation began on Aug. 29, when Recreation Association officials told Orange Police they’d been notified of some unusual activity on a checking account in the association’s name, according to Haigh. Vautour’s name also appears on the account.

The Orange Recreation Association had no record of the account, and had never given Vautour permission to open it, said Haigh.

By the time the Recreation Association discovered the account, it only had 15 cents in it, Haigh said.

As soccer director, Vautour was responsible for collecting soccer players’ registration fees, as well as donations from the community, according to Haigh. The chief said money received by Vautour should have gone into the recreation association’s revolving account.

Vautour handled much of the association’s donations, said Haigh, without much oversight.

In the course of the investigation, said Haigh, another account, this one at Workers Credit Union, was discovered to have been opened by Vautour.

Into this account, said Haigh, one of two $6,000 donations from the Rodney Hunt Co. had been deposited. Haigh said a second name had been added to the account, that of Casey Bashaw, who worked with Vautour to coordinate the building of two soccer fields at the Orange Municipal Airport.

Haigh said he believes Bashaw was unaware of any illegal activity by Vautour.

After speaking with Haigh, Bashaw closed the account, and gave Haigh a bank check written for $4,900, the balance of the account at closure.

Haigh said some cash was recovered in a search of Vautour’s residence, and cancellations were placed on checks that had been written from the account and not yet cleared. Police are still figuring out exactly how much they’ll be able to recover.

Despite the alleged embezzlement, Haigh said the recreation association soccer program, and the new field project, will still go on.

“There are a lot of very good people involved in the ORA, stepping up and making sure the season goes forward,” the chief said. “Casey Bashaw is one of them.”

The alleged embezzlement hits close to home for Orange police.

“I feel horrible having to investigate this,” Haigh said.

“Unfortunately, this harms the children,” he continued. “There are a lot of good people in town that donated money to get the fields built for the kids. There are also a lot of families who can’t really afford, and have to struggle to pay for, their kids’ registration fees.”

“It’s a shame for something like this to be done to them by someone they trust,” Haigh continued.

Orange police make regular donations to the ORA, said Haigh, and Sgt. Craig Lundgren has coached ORA sports, and sends his own children to ORA programs.

If convicted of the embezzlement charge, Vautour faces maximum penalties of five years in state prison, two years in county jail and fines up to $25,000.

Vautour was released on personal recognizance, after prosecutors asked that he be held on $10,000 cash bail or $100,000 surety. He is due back in court Oct. 7.

Trenton Athletic Director Receives 6 Months Probation for Embezzlement in Michigan

The athletic director for Trenton Public Schools received six months probation after he pleaded no contest to misdemeanor embezzlement Wednesday at Frank Murphy Hall of Justice in Detroit.

Woodley, 40, of Taylor, was charged on Aug. 15 with felony embezzlement after authorities accused him of taking about $1,500 from the City of Trenton, while working as a part-time employee at the Trenton Aquatic Center.

Judge James R. Chylinski reduced the felony charge against Woodley to a misdemeanor.

Woodley's probation period began Wednesday. He will also have to pay $400 in various court costs.

Woodley is also the assistant principal at Trenton High School.

Superintendent Rod Wakeham said Woodley remains on paid administrative leave as an employee of the district, while district officials discuss the situation with legal council.

"(Woodley is) still on paid administrative leave as we investigate all matters with this case," Wakeham said.

Wakeham added he has no idea when a definitive answer will be made as to whether or not Woodely will be able to resume his positions with the district following the no contest plea.

In the meantime, Wakeham said former superintendent Larry Leaply will be taking over as interim athletic director. Leaply will be stepping in for Douglas Mentzer, so Mentzer can focus on his duties as principal at Anderson Elementary School.

Scott Church, human resources director for the City of Trenton, said Woodley's employment was terminated in an official statement following the no contest plea

Lodi police: Millswood employee embezzled from school in California

A Millswood Middle School secretary is in custody for embezzling at least $2,000 from the school and filing a false police report, according to a press release from the Lodi Police Department.
Officers arrested Susan Taylor, 58, on Tuesday at her home on the 700 block of Cross Street after Millswood Middle School Principal Sheree Flemmer reported the suspected embezzlement to police.
Taylor, who had access to funds for the school’s Parent Club, originally filed a police report in April, stating that approximately $1,000 was stolen from the club, according to the press release. Taylor told police then that an unknown female suspect came to the school and said she was picking up the deposits for the club treasurer, so Taylor gave her the money.
But Lodi Police Lt. Sierra Brucia said that on Monday, Flemmer reported that Taylor had come to her and said she stole the money in April and filed a false police report. Flemmer told police that Taylor confessed to a second theft of approximately $1,000 within the last month, and that she thought she would be caught when the club treasurer came to pick up the deposits this week, according to the press release.
After Millswood reported both thefts to police, investigating officers found that Taylor never provided the money to anyone and that she lied to cover up her original theft, according to the press release.
Taylor is being held in San Joaquin County Jail on suspicion of two counts of embezzlement and one count of filing a false police report. Her bail has been set at $21,000. She is scheduled to be arraigned Friday in San Joaquin County Superior Court.
Officers have been unable to recover any of the missing money. Detectives are waiting to receive bank statements from the Parents Club to determine exactly how much money is missing, Brucia said.
Ralph Womack, president of the Lodi Unified School District Board of Trustees, said he cannot comment on the Taylor case, but speaking generally, he said it would be extremely disappointing if the allegations turn out to be true.
“People in a position of trust are expected to uphold that trust,” Womack said.
Lodi Unified Superintendent Cathy Nichols-Washer declined to comment.

Embezzlement not uncommon, but proactive steps can help prevent


After pleading guilty to stealing thousands of dollars from Columbia Baptist Association, Tonya Renee Woodward said “the devil made her do it,” according to Houston County District Attorney Doug Valeska.

Woodward, the association’s former financial secretary, was arrested in October 2012 and pleaded guilty Aug. 28 to 10 felony second-degree theft charges, then later was served with a four-count felony indictment alleging she stole more than $130,000 from Columbia Association.

She faces sentencing Oct. 16, according to Associated Baptist Press.

Actions like Woodward’s are not uncommon in religious life, according to Ministry Protection, a department of the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church. Almost every other week, a church of some denomination has funds embezzled from it.

How does something like this happen?

One factor seems to be consistent, according to Ministry Protection — the person who embezzled was someone the church trusted.

Lee Wright, coordinator of church compensation services for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, said churches can take proactive steps to reduce their risk of having it happen to them.

One of those steps is to use the “fraud triangle” to identify potential areas of concern, he said. The fraud triangle addresses three characteristics of potential embezzlers — pressure, rationalization and opportunity.

Pressure involves “a person consistently living well above their means or a person suddenly hit with large, unexpected bills,” Wright said.

This scenario can lead to rationalization — “most embezzlers intend to pay the money back and consider it borrowing,” he said.

Opportunity completes the triangle if there is a lack of internal controls and supervision in place, Wright said.

“The key is proper separation of duties — good internal controls,” he said.

Having two or more people involved in financial processes “will greatly reduce the possibility” of embezzlement, Wright said. “Having a different person from the check writer open and reconcile the bank statement each month is one key step that would practically eliminate embezzlement.”

And having two signers on each check — neither of them the financial secretary — can also keep one person from having too much control over the funds, according to Ministry Protection.

Two unrelated people also should be the ones to receive the offerings, Ministry Protection said, and rotating money counters and tellers can put yet another safeguard in place.

Another way to have more eyes on the church’s financial activity is to keep as few bank accounts as possible, Wright said. “The general fund is usually examined closely, but other accounts may not be. Having separate bank accounts such as youth ministry, music ministry, senior adult ministry, etc., can be a dangerous practice.”

Before anyone is allowed to handle the church’s finances, he or she should be screened with a background check, Wright said. “Churches should bond those who handle money or checks or have the insurance for this purpose through their property and casualty policy.”

Several other measures could be taken so that the financial records of the church are kept public, according to Ministry Protection:

The church should appoint a committee to conduct a yearly financial review. If problems are found, the committee should consult an outside auditor to help complete the review.

Receipts and expenditures should be disclosed to the church each year.

Permanent records of all bookkeeping should be kept at the church. If the church treasurer receives any church income, he or she should record it in a ledger stored publicly. The treasurer should also never take the money home with him or her to deposit.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Hanretty must pay Woodside School District $2.67 million for misappropriation in California

Tim Hanretty, the former superintendent of the Portola Valley School District now serving a two-year prison term for embezzlement from that district and other financial crimes, must pay the Woodside Elementary School District about $2.67 million in restitution, a judge has ruled.

Judge Mark Forcum issued his ruling on Sept. 10 during a restitution hearing in San Mateo County Superior Court. Mr. Hanretty last year pleaded guilty to filing fraudulent papers to take out a loan of $2.6 million for construction work on the Woodside School campus, although the school board had authorized a loan of only $632,000.

Mr. Hanretty had already been ordered to reimburse the Portola Valley School District for the nearly $101,000 he embezzled from it when he served as superintendent from 2010 to early 2012, plus associated costs of investigating the theft for a total of nearly $182,000. So far, he has repaid almost $121,000, according to Karen Lucian, the district's administrative coordinator.

But Mr. Hanretty's crimes involving the Woodside district weren't so cut and dried.

He had served as financial officer for that district before becoming superintendent in Portola Valley, and oversaw the financing of construction projects. After the district launched an investigation in late 2011 into the unexpectedly high debt it was carrying, Mr. Hanretty was charged with three felony counts that included misappropriation of public funds.

The investigation determined that the additional funds obtained by the unauthorized loan were spent on other school projects.

He was later arrested and charged with additional crimes, including embezzlement related to his work in Portola Valley schools. After fighting the charges, he ultimately pleaded guilty to fraud, embezzlement and related charges.

Although he agreed to pay restitution to the Portola Valley district, he and his attorney, Michael Markowitz, argued that the Woodside district had benefited from all the loan proceeds, and fought the district's attempt for restitution based on an unauthorized debt that it was saddled with. The district sought about $3.63 million in restitution.

According to District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe's report on the ruling, the court calculated the restitution total on the following: $1.968 million, which is the difference in principal on the actual loan amount and the amount that was authorized; $856,553, which accounts for the difference in the interest rate on a loan for the authorized $632,000 and a loan for $2.6 million, after the school district's attorney "renegotiated the interest to reduce it by $700,000"; $76,220 in attorney fees; and $35,788 in forensic audit fees.

That total – nearly $2.937 million -- was reduced to reflect the $20,000 Mr. Hanretty has already paid toward restitution and the $250,000 from insurance payments.

Mr. Markowitz, Mr. Hanretty's attorney, could not be reached for this story to comment as to whether he will appeal the ruling

Woman Arrested by School Police, Charged with Embezzlement in North Carolina

Moore County Schools' Special Police have arrested a woman in connection with embezzling money from a high school band booster club, according to school officials.

Former Union Pines Boosters' Club Treasurer Donna Elaine Faulkner, 45, was arrested this morning and charged with 58 counts of embezzlement, according to Moore County jail site records.

Shortly after her arrest, Faulkner posted bond and was released.

In a statement released by the Moore County Schools' Special Police Department, schools' spokesman Tim Lussier said the Moore County Schools’ Finance Office became aware of a shortage in the Union Pines High School Band Booster Club account in April.

"The Moore County Schools Police began an investigation immediately," Lussier said. "The missing funds included monies collected through fundraisers conducted by the booster club, which operates independently of the school/school district, and monies collected from students for a band field trip. The Moore County Schools’ Chief Finance Officer is working with all schools to help them as they work with their booster clubs in establishing processes that will ensure appropriate financial oversight and accounting practices."

Lussier said that Faulkner is not a school district employee.

In a report filed by the Moore County Schools Police, Faulkner is accused of "fraudulently, knowingly and willingly" using funds for a purpose other than intended. She is accused of embezzling $32,000, which has been recovered.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Hearing in UofL embezzlement case delayed

An initial hearing for Perry Chadwyck Vaughn, who was accused by federal prosecutors of embezzling more than $700,000 from the University of Louisville, was delayed Monday

The government and Vaughn’s attorney, John Olash, agreed to continue a hearing set in U.S. District Court Monday on the prosecution’s motion for a permanent order freezing Vaughn’s assets. A temporary order remains in effect.

Vaughn, 35, has not been charged criminally, but prosecutors Joseph Ansari and Bryan Calhoun allege in the complaint that Vaughn has admitted forging 25 checks to himself over the past 16 months totaling $703,936 from Department of Family and Geriatric Medicine and three affiliated medical practices whose finances he supervised.

They say Vaughn, an accountant, also admitted that his fraud stretched back as far as 2007, resulting in losses the government says will exceed $2 million, according to court records

The university said last week that Vaughn has been fired from the department, where he was executive director.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

DA approves filing against Lemoore Lions Club embezzler in California

The Kings County District Attorney’s Office is filing charges against a woman who allegedly embezzled from the Lemoore Lions Club to support a gambling habit.

The club’s former treasurer, Angelina DeTorres, 65, is being charged with grand theft by embezzlement. Kings County Chief Deputy District Attorney Larry Crouch said the charges were approved for filing this week. DeTorres is set to appear in court on Sept. 16.

Lemoore police Cmdr. Steve Rossi said several of the club’s members filed a police report on Aug. 2 after they began to suspect DeTorres had been spending Lions Club money for purposes not related to the club.

“They became suspicious when a check that was written to a vendor bounced,” Rossi said. “The check was only for $800.”

The club members reported that the bank account should have had sufficient funds to cover that amount. Upon reviewing bank statements dating back to September 2012, they discovered numerous withdrawals and ATM charges at Tachi Palace Hotel and Casino.

Rossi said Lions Club members also suspect that proceeds from ticket presales and sponsorships for its annual Kings Brew Fest event, held on Aug. 27, had not been properly deposited.

When officers made contact with the suspect, Rossi said DeTorres admitted to spending the money, as well as having a gambling problem.

All told, Rossi said DeTorres is suspected of taking around $55,000.

Bob Casas, secretary of the Lemoore Lions Club, said he could not comment on the charges against the former treasurer because the investigation is ongoing.

Rossi said nonprofit organizations are frequently the victim of embezzlement due to members who are all too willing to trust their friends. He said a system of checks and balances, with at least one other person to oversee the accounts, is necessary to ensure the money is being properly managed.

“The best thing you can do is to have periodic, at the least, internal audits,” Rossi said.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

San Francisco school group linked to alleged theft will close

A San Francisco nonprofit linked to the prosecution of six school district employees for charges including grand theft of public money will shut down by the end of the year.

The governing board of the San Francisco School Alliance, established in 2005 to generate financial and community support for the school district, voted this week to dissolve the organization.

Its last day of operation will be Dec. 1, said alliance officials, who announced the decision Friday afternoon.

The organization was one of three nonprofits allegedly used by the six district workers in a scheme to divert $15 million in government grants that were supposed to be used for after-school and health programs.

Instead, the employees lined their own pockets, prosecutors said. The six allegedly diverted $250,000 over 10 years for their personal use.

Trish Bascom, a former associate superintendent, and the five other workers face a combined total of 205 felony counts, including embezzlement and misuse of public funds. They were arrested and charged in May. Trial dates have not been set.

Officials from the nonprofits, which also included the Edgewood Center for Children and Families and Bay Area Community Resources, said they cooperated with the investigation.

All three organizations were acting as fiscal agents for the grant money, meaning they held the funds and provided oversight.

Bascom and the other five employees then directed how the money was spent.

While some was used for children's services, all of the $15 million was misspent, given the grant requirements.

The alliance reportedly held between $5.5 million and $6.3 million of the grant money and took $500,000 in administrative fees as the fiscal agent, said District Attorney George Gascón.

The nonprofit still has $1.4 million of that money, Gascón said in May.

There are conversations about the distribution of any grant money the alliance still owes to the district, said Rachel Norton, school board president.

While in recent years the alliance primarily operated as a fiscal agent for a range of the district's grant-funded programs, its original focus was on raising money and support for city schools.

"The School Alliance started as a way to help the district get philanthropic investments," Norton said, adding that there was significant school board turmoil at the time and questions about the district's credibility following a number of scandals. "It was at a time when no one was going to write a check directly to the district."

The alliance was a strong partner over the years, but it's time for the district to take over development efforts to build partnerships with foundations and other philanthropic partners, the school board president said.

Alliance officials agreed.

"It's like we're the mama bird and we're pushing the little bird out of the nest," said Phil Halperin, the organization's co-founder and former chairman of the board. "It's time for us to get out of the way and let them do the work. Our vision has been realized."

How to Embezzle Thousands of Dollars Worth of Textbooks and (Nearly) Get Away


Here's a new way to rake in several hundred thousand dollars in a year with little more than an Internet connection and some crooked friends working in a nearby school district. It does not involve drugs, nor any illegal substances or shady-seeming businesses. Nor was there a plot to profit from local high schoolers' standardized testing hysteria—these districts are not so affluent.
Just textbooks. Thousands of them, embezzled from four school districts in the Los Angeles region and sold, in some cases, back to the same schools from which they had been smuggled.
For the district employees who handled the grunt work—a couple of librarians, some office technicians, a campus supervisor, and others—the scheme netted about $200,000 in bribe money, reports the Los Angeles Times. (They have all been charged.) For the mastermind who carried out the plot between 2008 and 2010—a businessman named Corey Frederick—it could yield more than 19 years in prison if he is convicted. 
Here is how he did it:
  • Frederick had his team of inside agents, all motivated by bribes, quietly smuggle thousands of textbooks from "four of the region's most financially strapped school districts"—7,000 from one district alone—where they were then employed.
  • Frederick set up an online book-selling business under the name "Doorkeeper Textz," seemingly like hundreds of other such schoolbook destinations.
  • Frederick sold the the stolen merchandise to legitimate textbook distributors, including Amazon. (For a look at how this could yield profits, take a look at the going prices for, say, high school chemistry textbooks.)
  • These vendors would then, in some cases, resell the books right back to the schools from which they'd been taken. (That the schools had no book-tracking system made this quite easy.)
  • Frederick paid his smugglers handsomely for their help—and silence. According to CNN, some received hundreds—others, up to $47,000.
  • Repeat.
It's unclear just how Frederick was found out; the L.A. Times simply says "police notified prosecutors of an alleged embezzlement in their district." His current charges: 12 counts of embezzlement, 13 of offering a bribe.
No word on whether or not his profits are enough to match his hefty bail: $843,000.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Embezzlement Update: Former WC Employee Sentenced in Maryland

Last year, former dining services accounting specialist Wendy Sue Marker was arrested and charged with 21 counts of theft and theft scheme. It was estimated that during a 6-year period, Marker embezzled nearly $200,000 from Washington College.
Investigations began in April of 2012, when cash discrepancies became apparent in Dining Services’ accounting paperwork and led to Marker’s arrest in Oct 2012. WC Department of Public Safety initiated the investigation and contacted the Chestertown Police Department and the case was forwarded to the Kent Bureau of Investigation, a unit consisting of members of the CPD, the Rock Hall Police Department, and Maryland State Police.
“It was obviously a very complex investigation,” said Jerry Roderick, director of Public Safety. “We saw a vulnerability and knew that we had to approach this [situation] properly to avoid casting bad information.”
Roderick led the investigation within the College and was responsible for interviewing employees and working with a Certified Public Accountant to sort through the 16 boxes of evidence that “needed to be duplicated for the defense and prosecutor’s office,” an endeavor that took four months to complete.
Marker was arrested after an 8-month investigation that started in March 2012 when the College’s accounting department uncovered alleged cash inconsistencies during a routine analysis when the College prepared a budget for the next fiscal year. Specifically, when the dining hall director reviewed receipts for five venues – including the dining hall and Java George – she determined that projected revenue was not being met.
Charged with 21 counts of theft (six counts of theft, $1,000 to less than $10,000; six counts of theft more than $500; four counts of theft less than $500; three counts of conducting a theft scheme of more than $500; and one count each of conducting a theft scheme of more than $100,000 and conducting a theft scheme of $10,000 to less than $100,000), Marker was indicted on all charges by a grand jury.
The trial date was set for Aug. 16, and rather than a two-day trial, Marker entered a guilty plea to conducting a theft scheme over $100,000. In exchange for her guilty plea, Kent County Assistant State’s Attorney Hallie Salmi dismissed the remaining charges. Salmi agreed not to ask for a sentence of more than seven years of imprisonment.
“Marker accepted the deal under the condition of an Alford plea,” said Roderick, “Which means she’s basically acknowledging that the state has enough evidence to prosecute and convict her, but she’s declaring her innocence.” Marker had an opportunity during her sentencing to speak to the court and again held her claim of innocence.
After listening to a statement of facts that supported the plea, Judge Paul M. Bowman found Marker guilty.
As part of the plea agreement, Marker promised to make restitution of $10,000 to WC. The College’s insurance covered the loss; the $10,000 was what the College paid out of pocket as the deductible, claimed Salmi.
In an official email to faculty and staff, President Mitchell Reiss stated that Marker will be subject to a supervised probation for five years after her release.
James Manaro, WC’s senior vice president for finance and administration, issued the following statement to local press on June 4: “The College has put into place additional oversight and accounting procedures to prevent any such thefts in the future. We expect to recover nearly all of the stolen funds from the defendant and from our insurance coverage. We appreciate the good work of the Kent County Bureau of Investigation, the Chestertown Police Department and the Kent County State’s Attorney’s Office in bringing this case to resolution.”
Marker’s case represented the first of its kind for WC, and its impact is still being felt. “It made it very difficult for all of us at the College to deal with [the case] but I think the College did a remarkable job,” said Roderick. “The message came out early on from [President Reiss] and we were transparent about it.”
“This closes a painful chapter for the College, one that took an emotional and financial toll,” said Reiss. “[But] thanks go to our Public Safety, Business Office, and Human Resources staffs and other campus employees who spent countless hours working with local and state authorities to successfully prosecute this case.”

UofL president says embezzlement caught by school employees in Kentucky

Co-workers helped catch a man who investigators accuse of stealing more than $2 million from the University of Louisville, the school's president said Thursday.

University administrators fired Perry "Chad" Vaughn after an internal audit found he had stolen money during his time as executive director of the Department of Family and Geriatric Medicine.

Vaughn drove luxury cars, including a Corvette, Mercedes and Range Rover, and went on trips to the Caribbean and Las Vegas, according to an affidavit filed in federal court. He wrote checks using university money to pay credit card bills and child support, investigators said.

In the court filing, investigators said Vaughn admitted he'd been stealing money since 2007. A co-worker in October 2012 emailed school administrators questioning how Vaughn could have such a lavish lifestyle on a university employee's salary.

"We've got strong systems of internal controls, it's just that they weren't being followed," said Dr. James Ramsey, president of the University of Louisville. "We'll let the investigation play out and see what other changes need to be made."

A federal judge is scheduled to decide Monday whether to freeze Vaughn's assets. Stephanie Collins, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office, said investigators haven't charged Vaughn criminally yet because the investigation is ongoing.

Ramsey said supervisors need to perform checks on employees as part of the internal control methods. He said that had been a "problem in the past," during other similar incidents.

In this case, Ramsey credited the co-worker who questioned Vaughn's actions and the resulting audit with helping to solve the case.

"I feel very good about that, that the university process worked quite well," Ramsey said.

Lynwood School District Librarian Indicted in Textbook Embezzlement Scheme in California

Veronica Clanton Higgins, 36, who worked as a librarian in the Lynwood Unified School District. She is accused of accepting more than $14,000 in checks from Higgins between June 2008 and December 2010, according to the indictment.

A librarian in the Lynwood Unified School District allegedly accepted $14,000 in checks from a book dealer who allegedly took textbooks illegally from school districts and resold them to book companies and schools.

Veronica Clanton Higgins, 36, who worked as a librarian in the Lynwood Unified School District, is accused of accepting more than $14,000 in checks from Higgins between June 2008 and December 2010, according to the indictment.

The indictment alleges that Corey Devin Frederick, 43, a book buyer/seller who operates Doorkeeper Textz in Long Beach, recruited 12 school employees to whom he paid out more than $200,000 in bribes in exchange for allowing him to take whatever textbooks he requested.

Frederick then allegedly sold the textbooks -- literature and language arts, economics, physics, anatomy and physiology titles -- to various textbook distributors, including Amazon, Bookbyte and Follett Educational Services.

In some cases, the stolen books were resold to the same school districts, according to the District Attorney's Office, which alleges the scheme began in May 2008.

Frederick pleaded not guilty last week to 12 counts of embezzlement and 13 counts of offering a bribe.

He was being held in county lockup in lieu of $843,000 bail, according to Los Angeles County sheriff's jail records.

Frederick was booked at the LASD Lomita station following his arrest Aug. 28, jail records indicate.

The indictment also names employees in the Los Angeles, Inglewood, Bellflower and Lynwood school districts, who are charged with one felony count each of embezzlement and accepting a bribe.

Also named in the indictment are:
Vincent Browning, 59, a Bellflower Unified School District warehouse supervisor who allegedly received more than $47,000 from Frederick between November 2008 and September 2010. He has since retired;
Sandra Williams, 58, who worked as an office technician at University High School in the Los Angeles Unified School District. She is accused of receiving more than $34,000 in checks from Frederick between June 2008 and October 2010;
Olalekan Animasaun, 37, who worked as an office technician at the LAUSD's Santee Education Center when he allegedly received more than $21,000 in checks from Frederick between January 2009 and October 2010;
Adrienne Dozier, 62, who worked as an office technician at the LAUSD's Venice High School. She is accused of accepting nearly $12,800 in checks from Frederick between June 2008 and October 2010;
 Dinah Goodlett, 53, who worked as an office technician at the LAUSD's Locke High School. She allegedly received nearly $6,100 in checks from Frederick between June 2009 and August 2009;
Stephanie Baurac-Holmes, 48, who worked as an office technician at Perry Middle School and Narbonne High School in the LAUSD when she allegedly received more than $4,600 in checks from Frederick between June 2008 and October 2010;
Shari Stewart, 46, who worked as a librarian in the Inglewood Unified School District. She allegedly received $4,200 in checks from Higgins between July 2008 and December 2010 while she was working at Crozier Middle School;
Denise Hill, 57, who worked as an office technician at the LAUSD's Webster Middle School. She is accused of getting just over $4,000 in checks from Frederick between March 2009 and September 2010;
Sherry Calloway, 60, who allegedly received nearly $1,200 in checks between May 2009 and September 2009 while working as an office technician for Audubon Middle School in the LAUSD; and
Frank Fuston, 54, who worked as a plant manager in the Inglewood Unified School District. He allegedly received $1,100 in checks and cash from Frederick in July 2008.
The name of one other person who has not yet been arraigned was not released. "Taking books out of the hands of public school students is intolerable -- especially when school employees sell them for their own personal profit,'' District Attorney Jackie Lacey said.

The investigation was launched after Inglewood Unified School District police uncovered the alleged embezzlement within their district and presented the case to the District Attorney's Office.

Former Lutheran Synod employee pleads guilty in embezzlement scheme in Minnesota

A former employee pled guilty Thursday to
embezzling more than $300,000 from the Minneapolis Area Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America over a 1--year period.

In exchange for the guilty plea two similar charges against 51-year-old Raenay Hendrickson will be dismissed when she is sentenced November 4. She is expected to receive a 17-month prison term and be forced to pay restitution.

All sides agree that Hendrickson's embezzling scheme goes back to at least 2002, and that she took nearly $318,000 from the synod between that time and the day she was fired on July 15, 2012.

"I am pleading to the five counts because I am guilty," Hendrickson told Hennepin County District Court Judge William Howard Thursday morning.

Hendrickson said she began working for the synod office in June 1996 and eventually was doing the jobs of executive assistant to the bishop, synod administrator and bookkeeper, which gave her full access to the church's checking account.

"I took extra paychecks, paid medical bills for my family, my daughter's expenses," she testified Thursday. "I was thinking at some point I would be paying it back but I knew it was wrong and I had no approval to do that."

Under questioning from Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Ben Schweigert, Hendrickson admitted that she falsified synod records in order to cover up her thefts.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Former Golden High School financial secretary accused of stealing $156K pleads guilt in Colorado

A former Golden High School secretary has pleaded guilty of theft for stealing thousands of dollars from the school.

Judith Marie Eakins, 54, pleaded in court Wednesday to stealing almost $156,000. She was convicted of one count of theft over $20,000, a felony, according to the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office.

Eakins, of Wheat Ridge, was employed at Golden High School from October 1999, until November 2012. She worked in several positions before becoming a financial secretary in July 2008.

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

Investigators found that cash turned over to Eakins was not deposited into the school's account. The audit team also found that financial documents had been manipulated.

Some of the stolen money was from ticket sales to school events such as prom, concerts, drama productions and homecoming. As staff, Eakins worked the door or gate at some of these events and personally collected money for tickets sales.

Eakins stole money for her personal use. She also misused the school credit card and took property purchased with the card for her personal use.

Eakins, who faces up to 12 years in prison, will be sentenced on Oct. 21.