Thursday, December 26, 2013

Leominster man indicted in Ashburnham Westminster Youth Hockey embezzlement

A Worcester Superior Court grand jury on Tuesday indicted a Leominster man on charges he embezzled $29,000 from the Ashburnham Westminster Youth Hockey Association when he was treasurer in 2012.

Roger Lee of 232 Mechanic St., Leominster, was scheduled to appear in Winchendon District Court on Wednesday morning, but the indictment bumped his case up to Worcester Superior Court.

Tim Connolly, spokesman for the Worcester County District Attorney's Office, said Wednesday's court appearance is canceled and no date has been set for his next court appearance.

In 2010, Lee became treasurer of the Ashburnham Westminster Youth Hockey Association. Remaining officials from that group said he completely cleaned out their bank account, leaving them in financial peril. Lee is no longer treasurer.

He is now charged with two counts of larceny of more than $250 by a common scheme.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

UVM employee accused of embezzlement

A former University of Vermont employee who worked with campus police on criminal investigations was charged Tuesday with embezzlement from UVM.

Daniel S. Austin, 47, of Jericho is charged with stealing $9,860 from inactive accounts in the UVM Cat Card system. The debit-like cards track information including purchases, meal plans, building access and discounted services at some locations.

UVM police said they identified 68 victims and 348 transactions from October 2012 until July.

Austin, who was hired in 2006, was a senior equipment technician for the Cat Card office but is no longer employed at UVM, spokesman Enrique Corredera said Tuesday evening.

Austin was trained to run reports and to locate dormant accounts each year for the Cat Card system, which also provides services to Champlain and St. Michael’s colleges and to Norwich University, the police said.

UVM police said nothing about the embezzlement complaint in July or when investigators cited Austin Sept. 29 and ordered him to appear in criminal court.

UVM police issued a brief news release Tuesday, the day of his arraignment, after court had closed for the day stating that Austin was arraigned.

Austin told the Burlington Free Press in a phone interview Tuesday night that he hopes to work out a resolution in the case. He said he pleaded not guilty to the charge in Vermont Superior Court, was appointed a public defender to represent him and was released on conditions.

Corredera later released a four-page affidavit from investigating officer Bill Sioss.

“I have worked with Austin many times over my career, often times he assisted the UVM Police in obtaining information relative to ongoing criminal investigations,” Sioss wrote in a sworn affidavit.

The Cat Card office also is responsible for maintaining most surveillance cameras on the UVM campus, Sioss stated.

UVM police said workers at the Maplefields store on Williston Road in South Burlington became concerned in July about suspicious transactions, including whether lottery purchases were authorized under the program.
The Cat Card office later called UVM police, and a full investigation began.

When a student, faculty or staff member is no longer affiliated with UVM or one of the other institutions served by the Cat Card due to retirement, graduation or resignation, the card becomes inactive, Sioss stated.

Each year, UVM then attempts to refund the money remaining on the card, minus a $10 processing fee, police said.

Austin would run reports in the Cat Card office looking for inactive accounts with a balance, Sioss stated. He also had the ability to delete those with a balance.

Sioss stated Maplefields was aware of five transactions from July 1-21 that totaled $960, and the store provided video surveillance for four of the case. The video showed Austin making the transactions, but the purchases showed up on inactive accounts, police said.

Investigators learned that Austin had the ability to change his own account to any of the dormant accounts to allow him to make purchases with the unused funds, Sioss stated.

Corredera, the UVM spokesman, said the university decided that it would make refunds to the victims. He said most were associated with UVM at one time, but others were at Champlain College.

“We decided to make all the people whole. UVM will issue checks,” he said. “Obviously we have taken steps to tighten up the system in an effort to make it unlikely to happen in the future.”

A former University of Vermont employee has agreed to plead guilty to a federal charge of embezzlement — a case that began, officials said, with the receipt 18 months ago of an anonymous letter.

Jody Farnham, a UVM employee who provided administrative support to the Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese, embezzled at least $185,000 during a six-year period ending in late 2012, according to a charging document on file at U.S. District Court in Burlington. She is accused of having done so by altering tuition checks from enrollees in the cheesemaking program to make herself a co-payee, the document alleges, and then depositing the checks in her own bank account.

Farnham also is accused of embezzling cash tuition payments given to her by enrollees and of using UVM credit cards to make personal purchases. This is the latest in a series of embezzlement cases to emerge in Vermont public institutions during the past several years.

In an agreement signed Nov. 25, 2013, and filed in court this week, Farnham agreed to plead guilty to the allegations. The charging document, dated Sunday, includes a forfeiture notice, under which Farnham, if convicted, would have to pay back $185,000. Asked about the lag between the plea agreement’s signing and the Monday court filing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Waples declined comment.

A listed phone number for Farnham could not be found Wednesday. A phone message and an email to her attorney, Robert Hemley, were not returned.

The Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese provided educational, research and consulting assistance to cheesemakers and offered courses and workshops in artisan cheesemaking, according to the charging document. Farnham was employed by UVM’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences as an office program support specialist. Her annual salary in 2011-12 was $30,649, according to UVM’s website.

Farnham was co-author with Marc Druart of “The Joy of Cheesemaking: The Ultimate Guide to Understanding, Making and Eating Fine Cheese” (Sky Horse Publishing, 2011). The book jacket identifies her as the program coordinator and administrative director for the Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese, and Druart as the institute’s master cheesemaker.

Tom Vogelmann, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, said he received an anonymous letter July 17, 2012, “alleging redirection” of registration funds for the institute’s workshops.

“We started an investigation of the finances at that time,” Vogelmann said. Records were turned over to UVM auditors, who eventually called in UVM police to investigate, he said.

Farnham resigned Jan. 28, 2013, effective Feb. 15, 2013, according to Enrique Corredera, university spokesman. The FBI assigned an agent to the case July 19, 2013.

Institute losses
The institute stopped offering regular workshops in May 2013. According to the institute’s page on the UVM website, the need for the workshops diminished as cheesemaking expertise grew in Vermont. The page states that the workshops had been partially paid for by federal earmark money — dollars that eventually ran out. Tuition fees were the other main source of workshop funding.

Vogelmann said the institute’s finances fluctuated during the past six or seven years — sometimes running in the black, and sometimes significantly in the red.

The institute’s losses rose to $243,343, according to Corredera.

Vogelmann attributed recent losses to a drop in the demand for workshops, and he pointed out the institute ran up a shortfall of about $50,000 after the alleged embezzlement had ended. In lieu of workshops, he said, the institute is focusing on consulting and research, with particular interest in issues of food safety.

He said the workshop program served its purpose as an economic-development program in the years after the institute was founded in 2004, with the result that artisan cheese comprises a strong industry in Vermont, “something we can all be proud of.”

Asked why the embezzlement, which the authorities say spanned six years, wasn’t detected sooner, Corredera replied via email: “Part of UVM’s mission is to foster economic development. Such activity often requires subsidizing programs that lose money but which will lead to economic growth. That was the case with VIAC.” He added that the institute’s fluctuating proceeds and the absence of a steady revenue stream made it difficult to notice an anomaly.

Farnham, 54, began working for UVM in July 2003.

Conviction on the federal charge of embezzlement, a felony, can draw a prison term of up to 10 years and a fine of $250,000.

In the plea agreement, federal prosecutors pledged to recommend a sentence at the low end of the sentencing guidelines range and reiterated that the U.S. is entitled to a forfeiture of $185,000.

Federal prosecutors had jurisdiction because UVM received federal benefits amounting to more than $10,000 during the six-year period.

The case has been assigned to Chief U.S. District Judge Christina Reiss. A hearing regarding the plea agreement is yet to be scheduled.

'Deeply disappointed'
This was the second case of alleged embezzlement at UVM to emerge in the past two months. In December, a former employee of UVM’s Cat Card office was charged with having stolen $9,860 from inactive accounts. Daniel S. Austin told the Free Press he had pleaded not guilty and hoped to work out a resolution of the case.

Corredera also issued the following statement by email Wednesday:

“We are deeply disappointed that our trust was so fundamentally violated, but at the same time we are confident that we are doing all we can to reduce embezzlement risk to a minimum. We are implementing a centralized online registration system for non-credit courses to address this area of vulnerability.

“Additionally,” Corredera continued, “the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is taking all the necessary steps to strengthen its system of checks and balances across all its operations. Ultimately, this is about risk management, not risk elimination. Our people are our most valuable resource, and we consider this to be a rare case.”

Woman pleads guilty in embezzlement from Lansing school PTO

A Lansing woman who prosecutors say stole between $7,000 and $8,000 from a Lansing elementary school’s parent-teacher organization has pleaded guilty to an embezzlement charge.

Tammy McGrath, 34, pleaded guilty Monday in Clinton County Circuit Court to attempted embezzlement of more than $1,000 but less than $20,000, officials said. She faces up to 2½ years in prison. A sentence hearing is set for Jan. 27.

Prosecutors say McGrath, the onetime treasurer of the PTO at Sheridan Road Elementary, embezzled the money between October 2012 and July or August of this year.

When she was charged in September, McGrath was working as a bus driver for Lansing schools. She initially was placed on unpaid administrative leave, but now no longer works for the district, according to district spokesman Bob Kolt.

Clinton County Assistant Prosecutor Mike Clarizio said McGrath will have to pay restitution. Clarizio said McGrath disputes the total amount missing from the PTO accounts.

“There might have to be a restitution hearing to determine the exact amount,” he said.

McGrath’s attorney, Fred Blackmond, did not respond to messages seeking comment.

Sheridan Road Elementary is part of the Lansing School District, but is located in DeWitt Township in Clinton County.

Troy, Michigan priest seeks access to bank accounts frozen during probe

A popular priest removed at St. Thomas More Parish during an embezzlement investigation is seeking access to his personal bank accounts frozen nine months ago by authorities.

Rev. Edward Belczak, 67, has not been criminally charged but was “temporarily excluded” as head of the parish in January by the Archdiocese of Detroit after an internal audit revealed $429,000 in “questionable transactions and practices.” Belczak, pastor at the church for nearly 30 years, was also ordered out of his church-provided lodgings.

Troy police obtained a search warrant and had Belczak’s bank accounts frozen as part of an investigation that now involves the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. A request to unfreeze the accounts scheduled Wednesday before Oakland Circuit Judge Denise Langford Morris was adjourned until Dec. 18.

Belczak’s attorney, who could not be reached for comment, wants Morris to unfreeze the accounts because Belczak has not been charged months later.

Troy City Attorney Julie Quinlan Dufrane declined comment but wrote in legal filings to Morris that any conclusion “Troy police have evidently found no basis to charge ... is simply wrong. Federal and state prosecutors continue to review hundreds of documents and financial transactions and are proceeding cautiously and prudently likely because of the standing of Plaintiff within the Archdiocese of Detroit. ...

“Nine months is not an excessive amount of time to spend reviewing the information for possible charges,” Dufrane wrote in a Dec. 8 filing. “Moreover, at this point there are serious questions concerning the possibility that the funds held in the subject account (s) may not rightfully belong to plaintiff. There is also a strong possibility that if the accounts are unfrozen, the accounts will be significantly if not fully depleted and the rightful owner (s) of funds will never recover the funds.”

In a press release earlier this year, the archdiocese highlighted concerns about financial dealings that included Belczak allegedly taking at least $108,000 in unauthorized compensation, directing money to himself over the past six years and compensating a “ghost employee” $240,000 over the past six years

Another issue under investigation is Belczak’s purchase of a $500,000 Florida condominium in 2005 from a former church employee, Janice Verschuren. Verschuren, St. Thomas More’s administrator and facilities manager for nearly 20 years, left her job in January.

Belczak’s pay falls into the mid-$30,000 range, according to the archdiocese.

Fulton woman charged in church embezzlement case

A Fulton woman stands accused of embezzling more than $4,000 from her church.

Cathy Louise Parker, 60, of 530 Reese Road, Fulton, was arrested on Monday, Dec. 2, and charged with embezzlement. She received an initial court appearance before Itawamba County Justice Court Judge Barry Davis and was issued a $1 million bond.

The arrest took place in Waukegan, Ill., where investigators said she was staying with family. In order to be brought back to Itawamba County, Parker had to sign extradition papers, which investigators said she did willingly. She was escorted back to Itawamba County by an Itawamba County investigator and jailed last Friday. Officials said she has remained cooperative throughout the investigation and arrest.

Investigators with the Itawamba County Sheriff’s Department said the size of the bond was due to the flight risk Parker presents.

Parker is accused of embezzling money from East Fulton Baptist Church, where she served as treasurer for more than three years. According to Jason Dickinson with the Itawamba County Sheriff’s Department, who is investigating the case, Parker is believed to have been taking small amounts of money from the church treasury throughout her tenure as treasurer. She recently left the position, Dickinson said, to return to her home state of Illinois.

The new treasurer reportedly noticed some discrepancies in the bookkeeping, leading to the investigation.

According to Dickinson, the exact amount of money allegedly stolen from the church has yet to be determined, but he estimates it to be more than $4,000.

Parker is scheduled to appear before the next Itawamba County Grand Jury, set for February.

Former church bookkeeper facing prison time for embezzlement

The former bookkeeper of a suburban St. Louis church faces sentencing March 7 after admitting that she took more than $300,000 from a church checking account.

Federal prosecutors say 52-year-old Elaine Lewis of Fenton pleaded guilty to mail fraud on Tuesday in U.S. District Court in St. Louis. Lewis worked as a bookkeeper at Lutheran Church of the Resurrection in St. Louis County from 2009 through August. Authorities say she used a variety of schemes to embezzle money from the church's checking account.

Lewis could face up to 20 years in prison, and restitution is mandatory.

Former Yukon FFA instructor charged with embezzlement

A former Yukon FFA Organization instructor accused of “skimming” a local couple of more than $4,000 on a single livestock purchase has been charged with embezzlement in Canadian County District Court.

Photo - Photo of a calf by Thinkstock
Photo of a calf by Thinkstock
Jason Matthew Bow, 39, was charged Wednesday with two counts of embezzlement, a felony, accused of overcharging two women on separate livestock purchases in June 2010.

Bow, who resigned his position at Yukon Public Schools in May 2011, has not been arrested, records show.

Debbie Wright, who purchased a show calf through Bow for her daughter, was charged $7,000 by the former agriculture instructor, records show.

Bow paid only $2,750 for the calf, meaning that he overcharged Wright by $4,250, court records show.

Wright, who grew up showing animals in rural Oklahoma, said the practice of agriculture instructors overcharging parents and students for livestock is known as “skimming.”

Records show that Bow could serve up to five years in state prison if found guilty of overcharging Wright. He also could be fined up to $5,000.

Another district parent, Donna Yanda, allegedly was overcharged by $500 for a show calf purchased through Bow around the same time as Wright's purchase.

Yanda's calf cost $6,250 but Bow charged her $6,750, records show.

Bow could receive up to a year in jail and another fine of up to $5,000 if found guilty of embezzling the $500 from Yanda.

The investigation into Bow began shortly after Wright and her husband, Randy, discovered they had been overcharged for the calf. The couple conducted their own investigation and turned over their findings first to the school district and then to the authorities.

“We eventually took it to the Yukon Police Department when we realized (Yukon Public Schools Superintendent) Bill Denton wasn't going to do anything about it,” Randy Wright said.

“We met with him in February (2011).”

OSBI officials said their investigation into the Yukon FFA program began in June 2011 after they received the case from the Yukon Police Department.

Man Accused Of Embezzlement In Milford from Several clubs

A man is facing charges after Milford police say he embezzled thousands of dollars from several clubs.
Sixty-six-year-old Richard Weir was the Rotary Club’s treasurer, according to police.
They also say further information was developed that alleged Weir stole money from two other non-profits for which he served as treasurer: Milford Special Olympics and the Milford Club.
The Rotary Club audit turned up over $211,000 misappropriated between 1995 and 2008 and over $25,000 from 2008 to 2013.
In addition, the Milford Special Olympics reported missing funds totaling $3,500 in 2012, which were returned this year during the probe.
And the Milford Club reported a loss of over $19,000.
Police say Weir used the money for his personal and business finances.
Weir faces three larceny counts.
He’s free on $20,000 bond and is due in court January 7.

Upstate NY woman accused of embezzling over $50,000 from school district union accounts

A 45-year-old upstate New York woman has been accused of embezzling over $50,000 from a school district union while she served as its treasurer.

Local media outlets report that Amy Wales of Owego is charged with grand larceny in connection with the theft from the Owego-Apalachin Employees Association. She's accused of stealing $51,065 from union bank accounts between June 2012 and June of this year.

The Tioga County Sheriff's Office conducted a three-month investigation into the alleged embezzlement after being alerted by union officials. Wales has been employed with the school district for 15 years.

Wales, who is being represented by the Tioga County Public Defender's Office, was arraigned Tuesday in Owego Village Court and released on her own recognizance. She's due back in village court on Dec. 17.

Woman Accused of Bethany College Embezzlement Enters Plea Agreement

The woman accused of embezzling $500,000 from Bethany College was back in court on Monday for a pre-trial hearing.

In November, Shelly Lough pleaded not guilty to two counts of embezzlement and falsifying accounts. On Monday, both parties reached a plea agreement, however, nothing has been committed to in writing. Brooke County Prosecutor Joe Barki says the plea agreement includes a plea of guilty to two felony charges and an appropriate sentence that is fair and agreeable with the victims in this case. He believes that the case will be resolved in January.

The case began in October of this year, when a financial audit revealed that more than $500,000 in cash was unaccounted for in accounts relating to the college's cash window, which is used to cash student and employee checks.

Couple accused of swindling Manlius church of $444,000 due in court,

 The embezzlement case against a Syracuse couple who served as the treasurer and finance committee chair of the United Methodist Church of Manlius is scheduled for court today.

Former treasurer Mary Meyer, 57, and John Osborn, 55, of 228 Roe Ave., are accused of wiping out the church's endowment in the amount of $444,000.

While their cases are are scheduled for today to address legal arguments -- called motions -- the defendants don't actually have to be there for the case to proceed.

But today's court date does signal that the case is headed towards trial. The judge could set a trial date if he chooses.

The wife and husband are each accused of two felony counts of second-degree grand larceny and one count of third-degree grand larceny for conduct between January 2008 and March of this year.

John Osborn was arraigned in Onondaga County Court in October on charges of embezzling $444,000 from a church in Manlius.

They were accused by an Onondaga County grand jury in October of writing unauthorized checks and making unauthorized money transfers from the church to themselves and a company Osborn owns.

Most of the stolen money was taken from the endowment, which people contributed to in their wills.

In 1992, Osborn was convicted of stealing $120,000 from the Camillus Housing Authority while he was the agency's treasurer. He was sentenced to five years' probation and ordered to repay the money.

Former FSU Official Named in 2-Count Information for Embezzlement, False Tax Return

Former Fairmont State University Vice President and Chief Information Officer, David Tamm, is facing federal embezzlement charges.

A two count information filed in U.S. District Court by Andrew R. Cogar, Assistant U.S. Attorney, charges Tamm with one count of embezzling from a state agency receiving federal funds and one count of making and subscribing a false tax return for the 2012 tax year.

Tamm is accused of misusing funds between Oct. 2007 and Jan. 2013 while he was employed at FSU, according to court documents. The Federal Bureau of Investigation discovered that Tamm used state-issued government purchasing cards, or P-Cards, to purchase more than 300 computer switches from Pomeroy, an electronics company in Lexington, Ky. He did that several times between June 2008 and November 2012. He resold the switches for approximately $638,500, according to the complaint.

Count two charges Tamm with filing a false tax return in 2012. Tamm reported his income to the Internal Revenue Service as $149,415.

The information filed in U.S. District Court also includes a forfeiture allegation in the amount of at least $550,000. In July, U.S. District Court Judge Irene M. Keeley approved the sale of Tamm's 102 Rosewood Court home in Bridgeport that he had purchased in April 2012 with the money he obtained through his mail and wire fraud scheme, according to court filings. He closed on the property for $435,000. The Deed of Trust indicates that Tamm mortgaged the property for $342,500. Proceeds from the sale of the house were deposited into an interest-bearing escrow account maintained by the United States Marshals Service, according to court filings. If Tamm is convicted, the money from the sale of house would be forfeited to the U.S. government.

David Tamm was placed on unpaid administrative leave from the university in January 2013. Court documents said Tamm was questioned by an FBI agent on May 30. Tamm told agents that he was "not a bad person, but that he just made bad decisions."

Marina del Rey Man Charged in Girl Scouts Embezzlement Case

A Marina del Rey man made his first court appearance Wednesday on federal charges of laundering $50,000 out of nearly $370,000 he allegedly embezzled from the Girl Scouts while employed by the organization.

Channing Smack, who was a senior property manager of the Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles, was arrested Tuesday on money laundering charges.

The U.S. Attorney's Office is expected to add embezzlement counts against Smack, who was arrested a day after he withdrew $64,500 from accounts believed to contain proceeds of the alleged scheme. He was fired by the Girl Scouts just prior to his arrest, a spokesman said.

GSGLA spokeswoman Carol Dedrich said the organization was "shocked and disappointed" by the charges against one of its former executives.

"The Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles has very high standards and expectations of our employees and our volunteers," she said. "We understand clearly that we all serve as role models for our girls and we take that responsibility very seriously."

She said the investigation began when GSGLA officials "discovered some irregularities" in Smack's work and turned the information over to federal prosecutors in Los Angeles.

According to the affidavit in support of a criminal complaint, Smack, 51, was responsible for managing the GSGLA's 22 properties in the Los Angeles area.

Prosecutors allege that over the past 18 months, Smack approved invoices for services purportedly provided by a firm called ZB Land Maintenance & Engineering, which is registered under the name of Smack's deceased brother.

Between August 2012 and two months ago, allegedly at Smack's direction, GSGLA issued 23 checks to ZB that totaled $368,278, according to court papers.

Federal prosecutors contend that most of the checks to ZB were deposited into one of two bank accounts opened under the names of the company and the defendant's late brother.

According to the affidavit, bank surveillance photographs show a man resembling Smack either depositing or withdrawing funds into or from those bank accounts.

Prosecutors served federal seizure warrants Monday on three bank accounts believed to contain embezzled funds -- the ZB account and two personal accounts in Smack's name into which he is believed to have transferred funds derived from the GSGLA checks.

Ivy Academia Founders to Pay $300K for Convicted Embezzlement

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Stephen Marcus on Monday ordered the founders of a San Fernando Valley charter school to repay nearly $300,000 for money they embezzled and taxes on the ill-gotten gains.

Yevgency "Eugene" Selivanov and Tatyana Berkovich ran a money-making scheme with public school funds from Ivy Academia Charter Schools, which still has campuses in Woodland Hills, Winnetka, West Hills and Chatsworth.

The husband and wife founded the school network in 2004 and were convicted in trial earlier this year of embezzling school funds, laundering the money and filing a false tax return.

Among the criminal acts: the couple owned one of the school buildings and hiked the rent up $25,000 per year. They also profited from making loans to the school and used school credit cards to buy gifts for themselves and staff.

At a hearing earlier this year, Selivanov, the mastermind behind the scheme, was sentenced to 4 years and 8 months in prison. On Monday, Marcus ordered him to pay $43,899 to the California Franchise Tax Board and $227,896.11 to the charter schools.

Berkovich will have to pay $22,000 to the charter schools. She had been sentenced to 45 days in county jail, probation and community service.

The California Charter School Association feared the case would have a "chilling effect" across the charter community, saying other operators may become reluctant to exercise financial freedoms the organization believes are permissible, such as making loans to schools.

During the sentencing hearing in October, Marcus jumped on the California Charter School Association for issuing supporting briefs on the behalf of the Berkovich and Selivanov defense.

“This case has to make the public wonder, are these new charter schools just a means to defraud the public tax payer?” Marcus asked. “Again, I don’t think this is the case. But to defend Selivanov and Berkovich simply because they run a charter school is not appropriate.”

Man Sentenced for Embezzling $14K From Daly City School PTA

A man who embezzled more than $14,000 from the parent-teacher association at his son's Daly City school was sentenced Thursday to a stay in county jail, according to the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office.

Mathew Hidalgo, 28, of Belmont, was sentenced to serve 90 days in jail starting Feb. 1, as well as three years' probation, prosecutors said.

Hidalgo was president of the Margaret Pauline Brown Elementary School PTA between Sept. 27 and Nov. 14, 2012, when it was determined he had embezzled at least $14,000 of PTA funds.

According to the district attorney's office, he wrote checks for "cash" that he withdrew himself and did not deposit money raised from book and ice cream sales.

When confronted by the school's principal, Hidalgo said he was borrowing the money so his car would not be repossessed and to pay the Internal Revenue Service back taxes he owed, prosecutors said.

On June 4, he pleaded no contest to felony embezzlement charges as part of a plea deal, prosecutors said.

As part of his sentence, Hidalgo was also ordered to pay $14,632 in restitution to the school.

The principal of the school, located at 305 Eastmoor Ave., attended the sentencing, according to the district attorney's office.

Southbury Synagogue’s President Sentenced in Embezzlement Case

Jodi Churchill, 45, of Orange, was sentenced Thursday, Dec. 19, by U.S. District Judge Robert N. Chatigny to two-and-a-half years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for embezzling more than $600,000 from a Southbury synagogue, according to Deirdre M. Daly, U.S. attorney for the District of Connecticut.

Ms. Churchill was also ordered to serve six months of home confinement and perform 120 hours of community service while on supervised release, the U.S. attorney’s statement said.

According to court documents and statements made in court, beginning in November 2010, while serving as the vice president of the Beth El Synagogue in Southbury, Ms. Churchill began embezzling funds.

In June 2011, Ms. Churchill became the president of the synagogue and used her new position to open a checking account and a money market account in the name of the synagogue. She was the only signatory on the accounts, the press release said.

Initially, Ms. Churchill opened the accounts using the synagogue’s business address in Southbury, but in 2011 she directed the bank to change the mailing address on the accounts to her residence in Orange. Thereafter, all bank statements for the accounts were mailed to Ms. Churchill’s home address.

Between June 2011 and December 2011, Ms. Churchill deposited bank checks totaling more than $300,000 into the accounts. The checks reflected the proceeds of certificates of deposit held by the synagogue that had matured at other financial institutions.

The investigation revealed that Ms. Churchill made more than 60 unauthorized ATM and over-the-counter withdrawals of synagogue funds in amounts ranging from $200 to $5,000.

Ms. Churchill used the embezzled funds to pay school-related expenses for her children, expenses for leasing a horse used by one of her children, vehicle expenses, airline tickets and hotel expenses for personal travel. She also provided stolen funds to a relative, according the U.S. attorney’s press release.

During the course of this scheme, Ms. Churchill embezzled a total of more than $661,000 in synagogue funds, the press release states.

After the embezzlement scheme was uncovered, the government seized approximately $104,000 from Ms. Churchill’s bank accounts, and seized and sold, for approximately $22,000, an automobile she had purchased with synagogue funds. The funds have been returned to the synagogue.

Judge Chatigny ordered Ms. Churchill to pay restitution in the amount of $531,985 to the synagogue and its insurer.

On May 31, Ms. Churchill waived her right to indictment and pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud.

This matter was investigated by the U.S. Secret Service and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher W. Schmeisser.

Hatfield Woman, Ex-Church Treasurer, Accused of Embezzlement Waives Hearing, Felony Charge Dropped

The former treasurer of Emmanuel Evangelical Congregational Church in Hatfield Borough accused of stealing $81,453 from its funds—and allegedly leaving $36.11 in its account—waived her preliminary hearing in Souderton District Court Monday, according to court records.
In exchange for the waiver, the prosecution dropped a felony receiving stolen property charge against Stephanie Anne Kligge, 35, of the 400 block of South Main Street, according to court records.
Kligge faces charges of felony theft by deception, felony theft by unlawful taking, felony theft by failing to make required deposits of funds and misdemeanor misapplication of entrusted property, according to court records.
Kligge is free on $25,000 cash bail.
A formal arraignment in Montgomery County court is set for Feb. 2.
Kligge was treasurer from July 2012 through June 30, 2013.
Kligge, as treasurer, allegedly made 64 bank withdrawals from the church's account totaling $61,453.20 for her own personal use and without authorization, police said.
Kligge then allegedly stole $20,000 from the church's bank account to buy gift cards that she kept for her own personal use rather than provide them to the church's fundraising program, Ferman said.
In order to conceal her alleged crimes, Kligge allegedly provided the church with false monthly treasurer reports that showed balances of more than $100,000, Ferman said. In reality, Kligge allegedly drained the account, leaving $36.11.
According to The Reporter, an investigation against Kligge began when, in September, the president of the church board went to Hatfield police to report money was missing from the savings account.
This case will be prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Jeremy Abidiwan-Lupo.

A Hatfield woman allegedly stole more than $81,000 from the local church where she once worked as treasurer, according to authorities.

Stephanie Anne Kligge, 35, of the 400 block of South Main Street, was arraigned Wednesday before District Court Judge Kenneth Deatelhauser, of Souderton, on charges of theft, receiving stolen property and misapplication of entrusted property in connection with allegedly stealing $81,453 from Emmanuel Evangelical Congregational Church, 100 S. Main St., between September 2012 and August 2013.

“She’s alleged to have committed two different types of thefts,” explained Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney Jeremy Abidiwan-Lupo, alleging Kligge stole $61,453 by making 64 unauthorized withdrawals from church bank accounts and another $20,000 by pocketing gift cards she was supposed to purchase for a church fundraising initiative. “Rather than give those gift cards to the church, the allegation is she kept those gift cards for herself and kept them for her own personal use without authorization.”

Kligge served as treasurer of the church, which is located just three blocks from her home, from July 2012 to August 2013, according to a criminal complaint filed by Hatfield Detective Thomas Starner. Kligge, when confronted by authorities, claimed she began withdrawing funds from the church in August 2012 “without authorization and used it for personal use” Starner alleged in the arrest affidavit.

“It’s an embezzlement of the church’s money and money that’s meant to be for the congregation and for non-profit programs the church runs. However, the allegation is she spent it on herself, rather than the church,” Abidiwan-Lupo alleged, maintaining Kligge’s crimes were a breach of trust.

Kligge allegedly concealed her crimes by falsifying monthly treasurer reports that indicated a balance in the church account of more than $100,000, according to court documents. In truth, authorities alleged, Kligge had drained the account of all but $36.11.

The investigation began in September after the president of the church board went to Hatfield police to report money was missing from the church’s business savings account, according to the criminal complaint.

Deatelhauser set Kligge’s bail at $25,000 cash, which Kligge was unable to immediately post. Kligge was taken to the county jail to await her Dec. 24 preliminary hearing.

Kligge’s arrest marked the second time in four months that an employee of a Montgomery County church was accused of church thefts.

In August, James Lee Moody, 47, the former bookkeeper at Victory Fellowship Church in Lower Providence, was arrested for allegedly stealing more than $156,000 from that church’s coffers between May 2011 and May 2013 while he worked at the church in the 2600 block of Audubon Road.

Moody, of the 3500 block of Woodhaven Road, Philadelphia, is being held in the county jail in lieu of $99,000 cash bail while awaiting trial.

“Unfortunately, over the last couple of years we’ve seen numerous non-profit organizations and community groups having someone internally steal money from them...and it again reminds people who volunteer their time on these boards to remain vigilant to make sure their organizations are protected from internal thefts,” Lupo said.

John Meisner, former treasurer of Easthampton High School Parent Council, accused of embezzlement

The former treasurer of the Easthampton High School Parent Council is accused of embezzling about $19,000 from that organization, including $3,600 to help buy a house.

John R. Meisner, 56, of Bernardston, has pleaded not guilty in Northampton District Court to charges of larceny over $250 by a single scheme and embezzlement by an association officer over $250.

Meisner is accused of making 35 cash withdrawals totaling $19,181.26 from the council’s bank account during the six years he was treasurer.

According to court files, Meisner was the treasurer and lone signatory on the council’s account from October 2006 until October 2012 when suspicious transactions prompted the council to add a second signatory to help review the account.

The council is a volunteer organization that produces the annual high school musical, the proceeds of which fund Easthampton High School graduation night and a pair of scholarships, according to court records.
According to court files, suspicion surrounding the account surfaced in January 2012 when Meisner allegedly delayed reimbursing council members for legitimate expenses and failed to send scholarship checks to recipients in a timely manner.

One scholarship check was unable to be cashed due to insufficient funds in the council’s account, according to investigators.

Once the suspicious transactions were found, the original account — which investigators said was “essentially empty” — was closed, and a new one was opened with a new treasurer in place in October 2012, according to court records.

Meisner told police that in December 2011 he withdrew $3,600 from the council account and converted it into a bank check for a real estate agent who was assisting with the purchase of a new home, according to court records.

On Oct. 4, 2012, Meisner deposited a check for $9,000 into the council account. According to investigators, the check was deposited the day before Meisner was to meet with a council member and the Easthampton High School principal, Vito Perrone, about adding a second signatory to the account.

The $9,000 check was made payable to Meisner and drawn from the account of a family member in Colorado, according to investigators.

Meisner allegedly told investigators he had borrowed money from the council account to offset financial difficulties at home, but intended to fully pay it back.

According to court files, Meisner told police he did not believe he had withdrawn a total of $19,000 over the course of the six years, but agreed his record-keeping of the withdrawals may not have been accurate.

According to court records there were major discrepancies between the account balances Meisner was reporting to the council and what the bank records showed.

At a March 15, 2012, council meeting, Meisner reported an account balance of about $10,522, while the bank statement from a week prior showed a balance of about $1,739, according to court papers.

Similarly, at an April 12, 2012, council meeting, Meisner reported an account balance of about $9,063, while the April 8 bank statement showed a balance of about $549, according to court files.

Meisner was arraigned in August and there is a pretrial conference scheduled for Jan. 8.