Monday, October 7, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s false charges,” she said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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