Thursday, November 28, 2013


A treasurer was convicted and sentenced today for embezzling over $110,000 from church bank accounts. Fiatala Manu, 47, Lake Elsinore, pleaded guilty to one felony count each of embezzlement by fiduciary of trust, money laundering, falsifying records, and sentencing enhancements for property loss over $65,000. He was sentenced to one year in jail, two years of mandatory supervision, and was ordered to pay over $113,000 in restitution.

Between October 2011 and August 2012, Manu was a member of the First Samoan Christian Congregational Church in Santa Ana and served as an interim treasurer. The defendant was responsible for handling the church’s financial accounts, which included paying the bills.

Manu embezzled approximately $113,000 from the church by making unauthorized cash withdrawals, writing checks payable to himself, and transferring funds from the church bank accounts into his personal bank account. The defendant embezzled $96,000 solely from a deposit account set aside to build a new church. Manu also laundered the embezzled funds deposited into his personal bank account through cash withdrawal transactions and purchases made at an Indian gaming casino.

The defendant attended monthly church meetings and reported false financial reports, which included reporting false balances and funds in the church bank accounts.

In July 2012, an assistant treasurer was assigned to monitor various church accounts and learned that the account for the church building fund was closed in April 2012 with a zero balance. The discrepancy in funds was reported to the Santa Ana Police Department, who investigated this case and arrested the defendant on July 29, 2013.

Deputy District Attorney Chuck Lawhorn of the White Collar Crime Team prosecuted this case.

Osage County DA disputes tribal immunity claim by ex-football coach in embezzlement case in Oklahoma

The Native American pedigree of former football coach Scotty Ray Gilkey was questioned earlier this week at a district court hearing in which Gilkey seeks dismissal of embezzlement charges filed against him and his wife over fundraising efforts during his 2012 tenure as Pawhuska High School head coach.

The ex-coach testified Tuesday in connection with a defense motion that asks for the charges to be dropped due to lack of jurisdiction by Osage County courts. From the witness stand, Gilkey produced a Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood (CDIB) which indicates that he is one-quarter Pawnee Indian.

In addition to disputing the facts of the alleged crimes, the defense contends that the State of Oklahoma court system does not have jurisdiction in the case because the charges involve incidents that occurred on Indian land. Generally, crimes committed by an Indian on restricted Indian property are subject to federal prosecution.

District Attorney Rex Duncan disputed the Indian immunity claim made by Gilkey. Duncan said such a claim is only valid for actual Indian citizens and certified tribal members. The district attorney argued that the CDIB is not sufficient to prove tribal citizenship, which he said is required to support Gilkey’s motion.

“Citizenship is a political matter within the different tribal communities,” said Duncan, adding: “Mr. Gilkey is not and was not a member of an Indian tribe.”

The district attorney said Gilkey does not have a tribal membership number. He pointed out that the number on the Gilkey CDIB actually is a (Dawes) Roll number of a deceased Pawnee citizen who was a grandfather of the former football coach.

“It is simply a tracking number that is used in probate (court) to track assets of tribal members,” said Duncan.

Testimony by Gilkey indicated that his mother is one-half Pawnee and that he receives quarterly payments from the tribe and owns tribal property as a descendant of his Pawnee grandfather. He said he recently has resumed a tribal-membership application process that he had begun several years previously.

“I didn’t just become a Pawnee,” Gilkey said following the hearing. “I’ve been Pawnee my whole life.”

Gilkey also testified that he was not personally involved with operating a fireworks stand involved in the felony embezzlement case against him. The 38-year-old PHS graduate is accused of fraudulently appropriating proceeds from the fireworks stand in the summer of 2012. Gilkey said the stand was run by his wife and other family members.

The owner of the property on which fireworks stand was located, Paul Mays, testified at the hearing that the fireworks stand was operated by Jennifer Gilkey and her daughter. When questioned by the DA, Mays said he was unaware that the fireworks were being sold to raise funds for school sports programs.

Defense attorney Aletia Timmons attempted to introduce evidence that revenue from the fireworks stand did not even belong to the Pawhuska Public Schools, as claimed in the charges.

“There is no evidence in this case that there is a victim at all, let alone a non-Indian victim on Indian land,” Timmons said.

Gilkey served as PHS head coach for less than six months before being suspended last November by Pawhuska Schools Superintendent Dr. Landon Berry. His suspension came four days before the Huskies’ lost a first-round game in the state football playoffs. Gilkey’s coaching contract expired at the end of the 2012-13 school year.

At the request of the school district’s, an investigation of school finances was conducted late last year by the Osage County Sheriff’s Office. Embezzlement charges were filed against the Gilkeys on May 29.

A felony charge alleges the coach took more than $2,500 “which were proceeds from the Pawhuska Football Firework Stand, belonging to Pawhuska Public Schools and which had been entrusted to (him) for the benefit of Pawhuska Public Schools.”

Gilkey and his wife also are charged with seven counts of embezzlement involving personal checks from Pawhuska school patrons. The payments supposedly were intended for the school district but allegedly were deposited in personal accounts of the Gilkeys.

Osage County Special District Judge Stuart Tate set a Dec. 6 deadline for Timmons to provide a legal brief to support the motion for dismissal. Tate asked Duncan to respond to the defense filing by Jan. 3, 2014. The judge scheduled resumption of the motion hearing at 9 a.m. on Jan. 17.

Since his arrests in August, Gilkey has been free on appearance bonds totalling $4,000. Jennifer Gilkey was released on a $1,500 bond for the misdemeanor charge.

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Former youth minister pleads guilty in extortion-linked embezzlement in Virginia

A former youth minister who embezzled more than $87,000 from his Mechanicsville church to pay off a woman’s blackmail scheme pleaded guilty Monday in Hanover County Circuit Court.
Chris Allen Phillips, 51, who no longer holds a position at Mechanicsville Advent Christian Church, will be sentenced Feb. 24 and faces up to 20 years in prison. He remains free on bond.
Phillips paid the money to Tonya Farnsworth, 34, a Henrico County woman who offered her services online and who threatened to reveal a one-time sexual relationship with Phillips if he didn’t meet her demands for money.
In the weeks after the brief tryst at Farnsworth’s Henrico residence Dec. 22 last year, the church and its day care facility lost more than $87,000, according to Senior Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Angela O’Connor. Phillips also used about $75,000 of his own family’s money to make payments to Farnsworth.
At one point, O’Connor said, Phillips took control of the church’s day care checkbook.
On almost a daily basis, Phillips placed tens of thousands of dollars into a black Lincoln Navigator parked near Farnsworth’s home on West End Drive in Henrico after Farnsworth threatened to make public pictures she claimed to have, O’Connor said in court.
Phillips located Farnsworth, who went by Tammy, online and paid $200 for sexual favors at her home, only to have Farnsworth reach him days later to falsely accuse him of stealing some $500 from the home.
When Phillips denied taking money, Farnsworth threatened to publish pictures of him with her if he didn’t pay her.
Farnsworth pleaded guilty to extortion in October and is awaiting sentencing. She could get up to 10 years in prison.
Investigators recovered hundreds of pages of texts from Farnsworth’s cellphone, and defense lawyer Craig Cooley said yesterday that Farnsworth allegedly had at least two other victims.

Former Colton youth baseball league president jailed in embezzlement case in Pennsylvania

 Colton police on Monday arrested the former president of the Colton Pony Baseball League on suspicion of embezzling from the league’s funds.

Police said Matthew James Hernandez, 40, of Colton stole more than $900 while he was president of the league from November 2012 to February 2013.

Police had been investigating unauthorized withdrawals made from the league’s account and conducted an audit. When Hernandez came to the Colton Police Department for questioning on Monday, he was taken into custody and booked into West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga on suspicion of embezzlement and grand theft.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Church member accused of embezzlement in Carter County in Tennessee

A long-time church member in Carter County has been accused of stealing more than $100,000 from his church.

Carter County Sheriff Chris Mathes said Tuesday evening that Silas Edward Sams was charged with theft over $60,000.

He was indicted this past week by a Carter County grand jury in connection with theft from Beck Mountain Baptist Church.

Members of the church approached the sheriff’s office about the missing money. Investigators looked back several years and then brought their findings to the grand jury.

Sams has since bonded out of the Carter County Jail.

Former Tulsa Public Schools athletic director sentenced to 7 months for embezzlement

A former Tulsa Public School Athletic Director who pleaded guilty to embezzlement was sentenced to seven months in prison.

Stephanie Springs attorney had asked for her to be sentenced to probation based on her personal history and positive contributions to the community.

In the end, the judge said Spring stole the money from a district and students that needed it the most.
Stephanie Spring hurried out of U.S. District Court on Wednesday after a judge handed down his sentence.

The former TPS Athlethic Director pleaded guilty to a federal embezzlement charge earlier this year.

Spring is accused of pocketing more than 180 checks over a seven year period, totaling to over $92,000, money she got by renting out the district's athletic facilities.

“We're not pleased with the idea that we've had to go through this. This has been a heart wrenching event for everyone here at TPS. It's just gut wrenching to see people with so much potential who have done so much for the school make these kinds of mistakes,” said Chief Gary Rudick with the Tulsa Public School police department.

The judge denied Spring's request for probation and instead gave her a sentence of 7 months in federal prison and three years of supervised release.

Former secretary pleads guilty to embezzling activity fees from 2 Anchorage high schools

A former school secretary who stole more than $135,000 in East High School students' activity fees over several years has admitted to the theft, the largest in Anchorage School District history.

Gayle White, 46, entered a plea deal with state prosecutors. On Monday she pleaded guilty to second-degree theft, reduced from the original charges of first-degree theft and scheme to defraud.

White, a Wasilla resident, was working at Chugiak High School when officials discovered in 2011 she had stolen about $5,000, bit by bit, from fees students paid in cash for various school activities. The school district fired her in April 2011.

While she was on probation in that case, police learned that White had stolen much more during previous employment at East High School.

Police said White had stolen about $100,500 from 2006 to 2009 from East High when the charges were first filed. The school district said it had been the largest single incidence of theft they had ever seen.

After the Monday plea hearing, Deputy District Attorney Clint Campion said the total amount was more than $135,000, which White must pay back as restitution. White has made a $5,000 "down payment" and was ordered to pay $1,000 per month, Campion said.

White was sentenced to serve three months behind bars and may be eligible to serve that time on electronic ankle monitor, Campion said.

"She can't pay restitution if she's in jail," he said.

Former Glendora Unified School District employee sentenced for embezzlement in California

 A longtime employee with Glendora Unified School District will spend six months and four days in county jail, 270 days in house arrest and must pay back $430,682 for embezzling district funds, officials said Thursday,

Jane Robison, public information officer for the District Attorney’s Office, said Cynthia Schlig, 57, of Upland pleaded no contest Wednesday to one count of forgery and one count of embezzlement by a public officer.

In addition to jail time and house arrest, she said Schlig was also sentenced to five years probation and ordered to pay $430,682 in restitution.

“Also, the prosecutor seized the defendant’s home, and it’s in escrow. The proceeds - between $85,000 to $90,000 - will go to the school district as part of the restitution,” Robison said.

Schlig worked 35 years at Glendora Unified and was a former accounting specialist in the finance department. She was originally charged with two counts of forgery, one count of embezzlement and two counts of misappropriation.

Robison said the other counts were dismissed at Wednesday’s sentencing which was held at Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center in Los Angeles.

She said Schlig embezzled money from July 7, 2007 to Jan. 6, 2012. Glendora Police said Schlig took more than $350,000 from the district.

According to Robison, the restitution amount includes the funds taken plus the cost of investigating the case.

It’s not clear what the ex-accounting specialist did with the stolen money. The detective who investigated couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.

Schlig was arrested Aug. 20 after a 19-month investigation by officials from Glendora Unified, Glendora police and the District Attorney’s Public Integrity Unit.

Police said forensic audits of Schlig’s work from the previous five years revealed an elaborate scheme of masking incoming cash with check deposits and altering financial documents, among other tactics.

The district’s business office administration discovered the irregularities and made the initial report of the missing funds in January 2012, Superintendent Robert Voors said in an earlier interview with the paper.

District officials said Schlig resigned when the irregularities were found.

Superintendent Speaks About Henry County School Embezzlement in Virginia

-Investigators are releasing more information about the former Henry County Public School employee indicted for embezzling thousands of dollars from an elementary school.

Investigators say Tammie Terrell Millner, 41, was a bookkeeper at Axton Elementary when the embezzlement happened.

Henry County School officials say Millner worked for them for 11 years. But she resigned in April of this year. Now, they are just hoping they will be able to recover the money.

An internal audit at Henry County Public Schools exposed a huge loss, totaling more than $14,000.
"The school noticed it was an internal audit and notified us of that," said Eric Winn from theHenry County Sheriff's Office.

Investigators now say Millner embezzled that sum while working as bookkeeper at Axton Elementary School.

"It's a violation of trust...They have a person they trusted to handle this job and they were in essence taking money from the school," said Winn.

Winn says their investigation found that Millner was embezzling the money from June 2011 to April 2013. While they do not see this crime very often, they take it very seriously and so do school officials.

"There's always potential for fraud but the way that you fight against those kind of things is you work on strengthening your internal controls," said Jared Cotton, the superintendent of Henry Co. Public Schools.

Cotton says they already have training for employees that work with money. And they perform 'surprise' audits. He says they now plan to provide additional training including scenario-based exercises to prevent this type of crime from happening again.

While Cotton says they have not finished assessing all of the impact of this loss, he assures parents that it should not hurt the students at Axton Elementary.

"We certainly are using available funding to make sure that our students at that particular school have all their educational needs met," said Cotton.

Millner is facing three counts of felony embezzlement. She could face up to 60 years behind bars.

Former Waverly Junior Football treasurer jailed for embezzlement in Michigan

A former volunteer treasurer for the Waverly Junior Football program was sentenced Thursday to 10 months in jail and 5 years probation for embezzling more than $19,000 from the program.

Celeste Foster, 40, will be required to pay $19,070 in restitution to the program. She was taken into custody after sentencing in Eaton County Circuit Court.

Vince Green, Foster’s attorney, argued that there was only one victim in this case, the football program itself, and not all the parents and children involved in it. The judge did not agree.

“You were placed in a position of trust,” Judge Janice Cunningham said to Foster. “Our whole community was a victim in every sense of the word.”

Foster, who has no criminal history, tearfully apologized to the court and to the program, explaining that her bad decisions were the result of a new relationship with a con artist who abused her and introduced her to illegal drugs. She said she has been clean since the end of last year.

“I do know what I did was wrong,” she said. “I know I caused a lot of heartbreak to the people (in the program) and the children they love.”

Elizabeth Stanton, the organization’s previous treasurer, spoke on behalf of the group. She told Cunningham that her life was turned upside down because her name remained on the account, and she had to prove that she herself had not embezzled, particularly when Foster refused to reveal any information about where the funds had gone.

“I was accused of taking the money and had to prove my innocence,” Stanton said. “We stood there for months on end, over a year and a half, with this baggage. It left us with no money, kids upset, parents upset and a program that was virtually almost gone.”

Green said he plans to seek a restitution hearing because he believes the amount should be much lower.

Foster pleaded guilty in September to embezzling between $1,000 and $20,000 from a charitable organization.

The program’s president, Jim Kilfoyle, says the organization has taken steps to ensure a similar situation never happens again. All records are available to parents, checks must be countersigned by two board members, and all expenses are brought before the board.

“Every dollar spent is basically scrutinized by the entire board,” Kilfoyle said after the proceedings. “This season has been an exercise in putting these goals in place. The bottom line is total transparency.”

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Poe Middle School principal arrested, charged with embezzlement in Virginia

Fairfax County Police say the principal of Poe Middle School in Annandale, Sonya Swansbrough, 46, of Woodbridge, and an administrative employee at Jeb Stuart High School, Bethany Speed, 38, of Burke, have been charged with embezzlement and money laundering.
Also charged was Brenton Rusnak, 20, of Radford, Swansbrough’s son. He is accused of receiving stolen property.
Police said they began an investigation after being contacted by FCPS in late September 2013. The allegations involved falsifying timesheets for personal financial gain.
An investigation determined that these incidents began as early as May 2010 and officials believe over $100,000 may have been embezzled.
The investigation was conducted by Financial Crimes Unit detectives and FCPS Human Resources

Authorities say the women may have cheated the school system out of more than $100,000.
Sonya Swansbrough, 46, principal of Poe Middle School Annandale, Va., and Bethany Speed, 38, an administrative employee at Jeb Stuart High School in Falls Church, were arrested and charged with embezzlement and money laundering Tuesday morning.
The women allegedly falsified timesheets for personal financial gain, beginning as early as May 2010, said Fairfax County Police.
Speed had previously worked for Swansbrough as a finance technician.
An investigation began after "internal processes brought these issues to light," wrote Assistant Superintendent Douglas Tyson in a message to Poe Middle School parents Tuesday.
Swansbrough has been temporarily relieved of her duties as the investigation continues, he said.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Woman sought in embezzlement from Claremore Boy Scouts troop in Pennsylvania

An arrest warrant has been issued for a woman who is accused of embezzling $16,607 from a Claremore Boy Scouts troop.
Rachel Lunsford, 39, was charged in Rogers County District Court on Thursday, records show.
The Boy Scout troop’s committee chairman contacted police about suspicious activity on the troop’s checking account in July, when he realized it been overdrawn, a police affidavit states.
The chairman “identified numerous transactions in the checking account which do not reflect the expenditures” of the troop, including 23 checks written payable to cash, five checks to Lunsford family members and five checks to utility companies, according to the document. The troop was also reportedly missing $1,860 from fundraisers, an investigator wrote.
Lunsford is described as white, 5 feet 5 inches tall and 180 pounds.
Her last name also appears on some court records as Lundsford.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Sentencing postponed in church embezzlement case in Pennsylvania

Sentencing was delayed Friday for a man charged with stealing more than $100,000 from a local Catholic parish over the course of four years.

Daniel Yasick, 38, of Heilwood, was due to appear before Indiana County Judge Thomas Bianco to be sentenced for 190 counts relating to the embezzlement of money from Resurrection Church in Clymer between 2008 and 2011.

He stole the money, police said, while working as the parish’s business manager.
Yasick pleaded guilty to one consolidated theft count graded as a third-degree felony on Aug. 2 in Indiana County Court.

According to Yasick’s attorney, Thomas G. Johnson, and Indiana County District Attorney Patrick Dougherty, the sentencing was postponed to allow for more time to determine the proper amount of restitution Yasick owed.

Yasick resigned from his position in January, right around the time the Diocese of Greensburg enlisted state police assistance in investigating discrepancies in Resurrection Church’s budget.
The diocese then commissioned a forensic audit. The results were sent to state police.
Police leveled 190 charges against Yasick, among them 182 felonies.

Charges included 50 counts each of unlawful taking, theft by deception and receiving stolen property; 24 counts of theft by failure to make required disposition of funds; eight counts of fraudulent destruction of records; six counts of forgery and one count each of tampering with records or identification and tampering or fabricating physical evidence.
A new date has not been set yet for Yasick’s sentencing.

Former PTA president charged with embezzlement in North Carolina

Authorities in Lumberton say a former president of a local elementary school PTA is facing an embezzlement charge.

The Fayetteville Observer reports that Lumberton Police Department Capt. Terry Parker said Angela Bono-Severy is charged with 39 counts each of forgery and embezzlement.

Parker said bail was set at $40,000. It is not known whether Bobn-Severy has an attorney.

The current PTA president contacted Lumberton police in September to report that association funds were missing. Police said she reported between $10,000 and $15,000 was missing from the group's coffers.

But Parker said the investigation determined more money was actually missing, although he didn't give an exact amount.

Parker said the money was taken between August 2010 and Sept. 18.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Court clears Worcester, Massachusetts schools of defaming ex-athletic director

A Worcester Superior Court jury has cleared the city of any liability for damages alleged by John J. Pepi, a former athletic director for the public schools, in a defamation suit filed four years ago.

Mr. Pepi, who was named athletic director in 2004, alleged in the civil suit that he lost the job in 2007 to Colleen O'Brien, a school department administrator he maintained was less qualified for the job, and that school officials then sought to justify the action by embarking on a campaign to defame him without ever granting him a hearing to clear his name.

He alleged the campaign included an internal investigation into false allegations of possible larceny, fraud and embezzlement on his part in connection with missing office equipment and records and misappropriation of donations, many of which were eventually accounted for.

In June 2007, Mr. Pepi was informed in a letter from Stacey DeBoise Luster, human resources manager for the school department, that he was being placed on paid administrative leave pending the investigation, which was eventually suspended. School officials said the investigation was hampered by missing records and was inconclusive.

In September 2007, former Superintendent James Caradonio formally reprimanded Mr. Pepi for insubordination and poor professional judgment for allegedly ordering football uniforms without a purchase order and for denying that he ordered towels and posters with team schedules on them and then threw them out because the schedules had changed.

Mr. Pepi, who denied any wrongdoing and noted that he was never criminally charged, was later reassigned to a lower-paying job as a physical education teacher. He charged that the allegations that had been made against him became known in the school community and elsewhere, damaging his reputation and causing him emotional and physical distress.

He continued to work as a physical education teacher until 2010, when he went out on a worker's compensation claim for what he said was job-related stress.

School officials, who denied the allegations leveled against them in the lawsuit, maintained Mr. Pepi lost the job as athletic director because of a cost-cutting reorganization that resulted in the athletic director's duties being divided up among Ms. O'Brien, who had been acting project director of safe schools and healthy students, and two other employees.

They said the investigation and reprimand were legitimate personnel actions totally unrelated to Mr. Pepi's removal from the athletic director's position.

The jury returned its verdicts in favor of the defendants in the case Friday afternoon, after a trial that lasted nearly three weeks.

After deliberating for about 7½ hours over two days, the jurors found that Mr. Caradonio, Ms. Luster, Ms. O'Brien and Sherrill McKeon, the former manager of student and staff support services for the school system, did not defame Mr. Pepi, violate his constitutional rights or wrongly interfere with his contractual or advantageous relations.

"We're pleased with the result, and we believe it to be warranted based on the facts of the case," said Sean Sweeney, the lawyer for the school district.

"Obviously, he would have wanted a favorable verdict," Mr. Pepi's lawyer, Philip N. Beauregard, said of his client. "But that didn't happen, and Mr. Pepi accepts that."

Mr. Beauregard said he and his client "drew consolation" from Ms. Luster's statement that there was "absolutely no evidence" that Mr. Pepi engaged in larceny, embezzlement or fraud, even though she and Mr.Caradonio "were unwilling to say that that's the equivalent of innocence."

"Well, the American system of justice says that's innocence," Mr. Beauregard said.

"Just because the verdict came back the way it did doesn't mean I'm not going to move on with my life," Mr. Pepi said. "People who really know me know my reputation to be excellent."

Monday, November 4, 2013

Henniker, New Hampshire school PTA treasurer accused of embezzling more than $1,000

Police say the treasurer of the Henniker Community School PTA in New Hampshire has been accused of embezzling more than $1,000 from the association's bank account.
Thirty-seven-year-old Shannon Lovejoy of Henniker, a former school board member, has been charged with felony-level theft by embezzlement after police said she wrote checks from the PTA's account for her own benefit.
Police said she became treasurer of the PTA in June and gained full control of the accounts in August.
Police said another member of the PTA contacted them on Oct. 15 when they noticed some money missing from the account.
Lovejoy, who was arrested Tuesday, has declined to comment. She was released on $50,000 personal recognizance bail and is scheduled to be arraigned on Dec. 3.