Wednesday, December 25, 2013

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.

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