Thursday, July 31, 2014

Court upholds verdict that awarded St. Bernard School $800,000 in embezzlement case in Connecticutt

The state Supreme Court has upheld a 2012 jury verdict that awarded St. Bernard School in Uncasville more than $800,000 in a lawsuit against Bank of America.
The parochial school, operated by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Norwich, sued the bank in 2008, claiming that it negligently let a longtime school employee loot more than $840,000 from its account.
In its opinion, released Tuesday, the court directed that $5,156.42 be reduced from the total award, plus interest, because St. Bernard’s claims were subject to a three-year statute of limitations under the Uniform Commercial Code, which governs sales and other transactions.
“The findings of the State Supreme Court in favor of St. Bernard School is a gratifying outcome on many levels," diocese spokesman Michael Strammiello said. 
"This decision exonerates the finance department at the school and recognizes the bank as the negligent party. Not to be forgotten is that it was the finance administrator at the school who discovered the wrongdoing in the first place," Strammiello said.
The findings ensure that the funds will be rightfully reclaimed, he said.
"At a time when St. Bernard School is experiencing so many positives, including increasing enrollment, the diocese joins with the St. Bernard School board and administration in being grateful for a just outcome."
Reached Wednesday morning, attorneys for Bank of America declined to comment. Michael Colonese, the lawyer representing St. Bernard, had not returned a phone call by Wednesday afternoon.
The events leading to the lawsuit, court cases and the Supreme Court opinion began more than a decade ago.
Salvatore R. Licitra Jr., 47, formerly of East Lyme, is serving a seven-year prison sentence for stealing from the school between December 2002 and September 2006. Licitra was convicted of first-degree larceny. He was sentenced on Sept. 11, 2008, and is due to be released no later than Jan. 22, 2015.
Beginning as a part-time bus driver, Licitra worked his way up to school bus coordinator, computer technician and later to accounts payable.
In 2002, Licitra went to a Fleet Bank branch in Norwich and opened a bank account he called “Saint Bernard’s High School Norwich Diocese Camp Sunshine, c/o Sal Licitra.” Bank of America acquired Fleet Bank in 2004.
Licitra used numerous schemes to move money from a St. Bernard account, also with Fleet Bank, to his Camp Sunshine account. He had no authority to withdraw money from St. Bernard’s account.
According to legal filings in the case, Licitra told third parties paying money to St. Bernard to make checks out to the Camp Sunshine account, which he then endorsed and deposited.Licitra also fraudulently deposited, and the bank accepted, unendorsed checks made out to “Saint Bernard High School” into his private account.He also wrote checks from St. Bernard’s account to the Camp Sunshine account for bills the school never owed.

Licitra’s embezzlement continued until his position was eliminated in 2006. He was arrested in July 2007 after Norwich diocese officials discovered the scam.
In its trial defense, Bank of America said St. Bernard waited too long under the terms of its deposit agreement to make a claim.
Trial Judge James Devine ruled that the deposit agreement time limit violated a state law that says banks have a responsibility to keep their customers’ money safe.
Devine also told jurors that the time limit could be waived if they found that the bank’s later conduct was related to its first actions or if Bank of America had a “special relationship” of continuing trust and duty toward St. Bernard.
The bank’s appeal said the judge’s instruction to the jury was improper, and the time limit should be applied.
Bank of America also asked that the verdict be cut by $100,000, the amount paid to St. Bernard by its insurer.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Former New Berlin, Wisconsin teacher charged in laptop thefts


A former New Berlin high school teacher accused of stealing 18 laptops from the school was charged Monday with four counts of misdemeanor theft.

Amanda Rhyner, 27, a former high school English teacher, will make her first court appearance on Aug. 11.

According to a criminal complaint:

School officials at New Berlin Eisenhower Middle and High School first became aware of a possible theft when a Waukesha man contacted Dell to change the ownership information. Dell, in turn, notified the school, which had registered the laptop.

School officials spoke to the Waukesha man who said he purchased the laptop from Rhyner in September for $100. The man provided emails and a phone number that matched Rhyner's contact information.

A complete inventory of the laptops showed that 18 were missing and three of the missing laptops were last connected to the school on Oct. 13. When officers reviewed the security footage, they saw Rhyner go in and out of her classroom, and others, with a laptop bag and large blue bin.

The school district removed Rhyner from teaching last fall when the theft was discovered,

Readsboro, Vermont principal admits to embezzling

The former principal of the Readsboro Central School admitted on Monday to embezzling from the school but may evade a criminal record for the incident.

Michael W. Heller, 41, of Fairfax, pleaded guilty on Monday in Bennington criminal court to a felony charge of embezzlement. The state dismissed a misdemeanor charge of petty larceny.

As part of the plea agreement, Heller’s sentencing was delayed for 18 months. If he has no further legal problems, the charge will be expunged from his record.

Through his attorney, David Silver, Heller admitted on Monday to embezzling about $4,500 for his personal use from about $6,000 in grants that were awarded to the school last year.

Police released information about the embezzlement in January. Heller resigned from his position as principal of the school, where he had served for about a year, in December.

Former Readsboro Central School principal Michael Heller changed his plea to guilty in Bennington Criminal Court on Monday, admitting he embezzled more than $4,500 in school grant money over a period of seven months in 2013 for personal use. Through a plea deal accepted by Judge Nancy Corsones, the school district will be fully reimbursed, and Heller will have the opportunity to avoid a felony on his record.

The plea deal will allow Heller to avoid jail time by serving an 18-month deferred sentence on one felony charge of embezzlement, while a second charge of petit larceny was dismissed. Heller will be required to pay Readsboro School District $4,500 in restitution before August 14, and serve special conditions of probation including 100 hours of community service and mental health counseling. If Heller completes the 18-month probation period without incident, the felony embezzlement charge will be expunged from his record. Heller’s attorney, David Silver, told Corsones that the deal was the result of “lengthy, intense negotiations and fact finding.” To reach an agreement on a deferred sentence, state’s attorney Erica Marthage wanted to hear from the Windham Southwest Supervisory Union and the Readsboro School Board.

“What we did in connection with that was we had depositions (gathered) from the superintendent, the chair of the school board at the time, another member of the school board, and a collaborating principal from another school in the district,” said Silver. “The contents of the depositions were that Mr. Heller really was a transformative figure in that school and he was universally admired for the incredible work he was doing there, and how dedicated and hard-working he was. No one could believe that he did this really unfortunate act, they were shocked, and even after knowing they didn’t want to fire him.”

Principal of RCS for 16 months, Heller, 40, of Fairfax, was charged with embezzlement and petit larceny in January, following an investigation into the misuse of grant money from two different loans, one from Lowes for school improvements, the other from Macy’s for a school play. As previously reported, Heller opened a “principal’s account” at People’s United Bank unbeknown to the WSSU, and for which he was the only signatory. Heller used this account for personal shopping and expenses as well as hotel stays and food purchases. The account was discovered after an internal audit and an investigation were conducted by WSSU officials, and Heller was asked to provide bank statements and the transaction history of the account. 

According to a police affidavit, Heller took several weeks to respond to the request and instead provided computer-generated invoices from companies such as Qualified Hardware and Lorax, complete with the items purchased, their total cost, and their company logos. These invoices did not match the invoices provided by these companies, and featured drastic differences in cost. In all, 61 transactions were made on the account, of which $1,060.51 was used for security equipment at the school and $4,536.02 was used for personal purchases and withdrawals. “During the course of his administration of those funds, he converted them to his own use with the intent to replenish that money at some point, but that of course is not a legal defense for embezzlement,” said Silver. 

The state is dropping a count of misdemeanor petit larceny relating to the disappearance of approximately $200 in student lunch money, a charge Heller has consistently denied. Silver said that these claims made for catchy headlines, but were erroneously blamed on his client by Trooper Lauren Ronan, who wrote the police affidavit. Silver also said that while it does not excuse the crime, Heller used the money to help his mother pay a parking ticket and medical bills. 

“The level of shame and punishment from the public nature of the crime is significant in itself,” said Silver. “The level of shame and level of trauma this has caused him personally, financially, and to his family has been enormous and this is the consequence. In the age of Google he’s always going to have this on his record one way or another, but this gives him a chance to have somewhat of a clean start after he earns his way back.”

Corsones addressed Heller directly about the nature of the crime, and about the former Marine’s future. “I can tell from your demeanor that the shame Mr. Silver talks about is evident, it speaks volumes without speaking words,” said Corsones. “Since the current economic collapse in the last four years or so, the amount of crime of this sort is remarkable. To meet personal needs is not an excuse, and it’s not condoning anything, but the number of embezzlement crimes from otherwise law-abiding citizens has grown exponentially. 

“It’s really unfortunate because the people you disappointed most beyond your family, are children, and to live with that disappointment takes a strong person. It probably takes a Marine in terms of personal fortitude to deal with that kind of shame. I have no doubt you’ll not engage in this form of behavior again.”

A restitution judgment is yet to be held in the case, as well as sentencing.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Former recreation clerk pleads to embezzlement in Rhode Island

Andrea Masterson, the former town employee who was charged with embezzling from the recreation department, pleaded no contest Tuesday in Newport County Superior Court. Masterson, 33, of Beach Avenue, Jamestown, was ordered to pay $15,000 restitution and placed on 18 months probation. Judge Edward Clifton presided over the case.

Masterson was arrested in May2012 after Recreation Director Bill Piva alerted Finance Director Tina Collins of money missing from the department’s office. Police Chief Ed Mello then began an investigation, and photocopied $20 bills were placed in the cash box. When the bills went missing, police called Masterson in for questioning and located the missing bills in her possession. She was immediately terminated.

The state attorney general’s office in February proposed sending the case to its diversion unit, an alternative to prosecution for firsttime felons. The Town Council, however, decided that the “nature of the incident alleged to have occurred was of such a serious and substantial nature, that a more fitting disposition than referral to the diversion program” was warranted. The council rejected the attorney general’s offer, and the case was sent back to court.

Some charges dropped in Poe Middle School embezzlement case in Virginia

Charges were dropped Monday against a former Fairfax County principal’s son, who was accused of being part of an embezzlement scheme that allegedly defrauded a middle school of more than $100,000.

Brenton Rusnak, 21, of Radford, Va., had been charged with receiving stolen property and conducting an unlawful financial transaction in connection with the case at Annandale’s Poe Middle School. A Fairfax County prosecutor did not indicate during a hearing in General District Court why authorities were not going forward with the case.

Sonya Swansbrough, 47, Rusnak’s mother and the former principal, is still facing an embezzlement charge for allegedly falsifying timesheets for personal gain while she headed the school, but a charge against her of conducting an unlawful financial transaction was also dropped Monday.

Bethany Speed, a former financial specialist at Poe, had her charge amended from embezzlement to grand larceny in the case.

The next hearings for Swansbrough and Speed are on Aug. 25 and Aug. 21, respectively.

A new principal was appointed at Poe in June.

Monday, July 28, 2014

University of Louisville gets proactive in embezzlement protection

 It was Sept. 2013 when University of Louisville President James Ramsey said he discovered the head of the Department of Family and Geriatric Medicine had stolen more than $2 million from the school.

Perry Chad Vaughan is accused of writing checks to himself from several medical practices linked to the school. Vaughn was caught when he deposited the money into a non-university account. 

"When someone breaks the law, we're going to go after them -- make it public -- and we're going to prosecute, and we've done that," Ramsey said Wednesday.

The Vaughn case prompted an audit filled with 17 recommendations on how to protect the school's finances more effectively. 

Recommendations include hiring a new Chief Financial Officer, increased vendor scrutiny and expanding employee training programs. Additionally, the Board of Trustees must approve every new University bank account. 

The audit was performed by two independent firms, Strothman & Co. and Dean Dortan Allen Ford PLLC, which conducted more than 100 interviews and visited every University college. 

Bill Meyer of Strothman and Co. said, "We believe reviews such as this would have caught some of the earlier frauds committed in this area."

UofL has dealt with at least six cases of employees accused of stealing from the school. 

Robert Felner, the former Dean of Education, was sentenced to serve 63 months in prison for stealing a half million dollars.

"We've obviously worked to strengthen the processes and make them stronger to essentially eliminate fraud and thievery," said Bob Hughes, Chairman of U of L's Board of Trustees. 

The Board of Trustees Audit Committee agreed to implement all of the audit's findings except one, where the process had already started to address change.

Farmington man arrested for embezzlement in New Mexico

A Farmington man has been arrested for allegedly taking money from a school theater.
Charles Cheney, 48, is accused of embezzling $2,500 from funds belonging to the Turano-Christian Performing Arts Theater at Piedra Vista High School.
Cheney was the theater’s manager since 2010.
Farmington Municipal Schools discovered the missing money after someone interested in renting out the space brought it to their attention.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Preventing Losses from Fraud, Forgery, and Embezzlement

Let’s face it, if your business account has money in it, there are people who want it. They will figure out whatever way they can to take it away from you. While you’re busy 24/7 providing superior customer service or cranking out the world’s best widgets, there are folks who have nothing better to do than think up ways to separate you from your hard-earned money. We could be talking about folks who are thousands of miles away, or they may just as likely be inside of your organization.
What You Can Do About It
The key to reducing the risk of fraud, forgery, and embezzlement is a combination of prevention and detection.
Employ Checks and Balances
Setting up separation of duties and dual controls within your own business is a good place to start. No one person in an organization should be able to issue checks or execute payments by herself. If your business is small enough, the owner should take care of signing all checks and approving all transactions.
Many businesses are fortunate to have trusted and competent bookkeepers, but the more authority you invest in any one person, the greater the risk to the business if that trust is betrayed. Good accounting controls protect the honest employee first and foremost. There are few worse situations in a business than when money has gone missing and suspicion and accountability for the loss falls on everybody.
Protect Your Physical and Online Resources
Another important preventative is creating a system for keeping checkbooks secure. Checkbooks and pre-printed checks should be locked up whenever they’re not in use. It is an all too common occurrence for an office visitor or disgruntled employee to steal a few blank checks from the book where they won’t be noticed for a while. These crimes of opportunity can usually be prevented if the blank checks are treated like cash and kept secure.
Online cash management systems provide another opportunity for evildoers to get into your cookie jar. You can easily minimize risk by following a few online cash management best practices. (Link to Cash Management Best Practices article).A little bit of prevention today can save you time, trouble and money tomorrow.
Review Your Account Often
Reconciling one’s account ranks up there in popularity with cleaning out the garage, but prompt, periodic reconciliations are essential to catching accounting errors and detecting irregularities. Ideally, assign someone different to prepare the reconciliation than the person who writes checks or authorizes payments. Whoever reviews it, if not the owner, must be independent. Check beginning balances against prior reconciliations, and trace outstanding items back to the source entries on the bank statement or check register.
It used to be that reconciliations could only be done monthly when the statement was received in the mail from the bank. Now that transactions can be viewed or downloaded in real time from online cash management systems, reconciliation can be performed at any time, as often as desired. If your account has a high volume of transactions, consider performing the reconciliation more frequently. Since it will be a smaller task each time you do it, it’s possible it won’t take you any more time than doing it once a month.
Even if a formal reconciliation is not performed on a more frequent basis, it still makes sense for someone to review transactions that post daily, just to make sure that everything is as expected.
Prompt reconciliations and regular checking are very important when it comes to recovering unauthorized or fraudulent debits. Depending on the type of transaction and your bank account agreement, you may have as little as 30 days after receiving your statement to report unauthorized transactions and recover your money.
I recall a case of a business that did not reconcile its accounts promptly and had to take a loss on a series of forged checks not reported in time. They not only couldn’t recover their loss, but they also lost their right of recovery for the more recent fraud transactions since they failed to report the earlier ones.
Use Positive Pay
One of the best tools for prevention and detection of account fraud is Positive Pay. A business that uses Positive Pay sends a data file of checks issued to the bank. The bank’s systems then match incoming checks against the issued checks’ information and suspend payment on any that don’t match. This is very effective for stopping forged and counterfeit checks. Many business accounting systems can produce a positive pay file, so adopting this effective measure is simple.

Restitution at issue in embezzlement case in Vermont

A woman due for sentencing for embezzling more than $125,000 from Cold Hollow Cider Mill and Harwood Youth Hockey Association is willing to give up any interest she has in her former home to help pay restitution, her defense lawyer says.
Burlington attorney Brooks McArthur said Michelle Rutledge, 47, felt pressured to sign over any interest she had in the family home in South Duxbury after her husband filed for divorce in May.
He said Rutledge, who is unrepresented by a lawyer in the divorce case, soon learned she could have marital interest in the family home.
"The defendant is in the process of transferring her interest in the property to her husband without receiving compensation for the value of her interest," Assistant U.S. Attorney Melissa A.D. Ranaldo said in a motion to try to block the move.
Federal Judge William K. Sessions III recently signed an emergency order stopping Jonathan Rutledge from taking full control of the Clark Road house, court records show.
Jonathan Rutledge, 40, declined commentto the Burlington Free Press.
The house was assessed at $206,000 during the last appraisal in Duxbury in 2006, according to the Town Clerk's Office.

Woman facing embezzlement charges indicted for theft in Maine

A new indictment accuses a former Winslow woman of stealing more than $11,000 in state welfare benefits over a six-year period that includes the time she allegedly embezzled money from a school sports team and a sports boosters’ club.

Wendi R. Willette, also known as Wendi Thompson, 41, now of Whitefield, N.H., was indicted Friday by a grand jury in Kennebec County on three counts of theft by deception, one count of aggravated forgery and five counts of unsworn falsification.

An indictment is not a determination of guilt, but it indicates that there is enough evidence to proceed with formal charges and a trial in Superior Court.

According to the indictment, Willette received more than $10,000 in food stamps and from MaineCare and the State Supplement Program between Dec. 1, 2007, and Dec. 31, 2013. In her applications, she indicated she and her two sons were the only occupants of her China Road home and she had no income other than Social Security disability payments. She also is accused of providing false information to obtain assistance from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

The indictment says Willette intentionally failed to disclose that her husband was living at the home and contributing financially to the household.

It also says she filed a false 2011 property tax bill with the state on March 6, 2012.

Included with the indictment is an application for emergency assistance on March 12, 2013, in which Willette indicates a utility is about to be cut off.

In February, Willette was indicted on three charges of theft, which accuse her of stealing more than $10,000 from the Winslow Wrestling Booster Club between Sept. 1, 2010, and July 31, 2013; and of stealing money from the China girls’ field hockey team from Sept. 1 to 17, 2013. She pleaded not guilty to those charges at her arraignment in Kennebec County Superior Court.

Recently Willette was expected in that same court to accept a plea deal to resolve those charges. However, the hearing was continued. It is likely the new charges will derail that proposed resolution. Willette is represented by attorney Sherry Tash.

According to the district attorney’s office, which is prosecuting those charges, Willette was the club’s treasurer when she stole nearly $20,000 over three years. Willette has also been charged with stealing money from the China girls’ field hockey team, which she helped establish.

Kennebec County District Attorney Maeghan Maloney said previously that restitution was a key element of the deal.

“The agreement is to pay back a big part of the money up front and then to pay the rest over a period of time,” she said in early June. “For me, I wanted to make sure it put a big chunk of the money in their hands from the start so that it won’t affect the ability of the kids to play sports. That was a real focus for me.”

Neither Maloney nor Tash responded to emails or phone messages left on Sunday.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Wellsburg woman pleads guilty to embezzlement

A Wellsburg woman has pleaded guilty to embezzling from a school service workers association.
Media outlets report that the felony charge will be reduced to misdemeanor petit larceny if 61-year-old Debra Baker completes a mental health court counseling program and doesn't commit any other crimes.
Baker pleaded guilty Monday in Brooke County Circuit Court. Judge Ronald Wilson told Baker that she faces one to 10 years in prison if she doesn't complete the counseling. If she completes the program, Wilson will rule that she has served her sentence.
Baker was accused of embezzling about $13,000 from the U.S. School Service Employees Association of West Virginia, which she served as a secretary.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

5 indicted in embezzlement of school district funds

Five people on Friday were indicted by a grand jury in connection with the embezzlement of nearly $300,000 from the Clark County School District.
The theft of public funds came from the district's Adult English Language Acquisition program, which has since been shut down.
Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky first learned of the theft last December. Skorkowsky called a press conference on Friday to discuss the indictment. During the press event he said he called police immediately upon learning of the crime.
"This is something that we are not going to tolerate in the Clark County School District," Skorkowsky said.
The 52-count indictment accuses program director Priscilla Rocha of falsifying time cards and directing money to co-defendants for personal use.
"We can't allow this. We are so cash-strapped as it is that we can't afford to let anyone take anything out of a student's hand," Skorkowsky said.
Skorkowsky said that Rocha, who had been with the district since 1990, is also accused of buying thousands of dollars' worth of computer equipment with program funds and giving it to schools in Mexico. The indictment additionally states she would charge students for dictionaries and pocket the cash.
The theft has forced the district to make policy changes, and more will come after additional documents are revealed to district leaders.
"We will be looking at all of our procedures when it comes to accounting, money and expenditures based upon those documents so we can see what we can put in place to prevent this from ever happening again," Skorkowsky said.
Las Vegas police served search warrants at the program office and elsewhere after being tipped off by an employee.
Rocha and three additional employees, who have yet to be identified, were placed on leave.
"This was a person supposedly in a position of authority. So was she given too much authority that allowed this type of supposed embezzlement of money for personal use?" FOX5 legal analyst Bob Massi asked.
Massi said that typically criminals are caught when someone turns them in.
"I think in this case $300,000 is a lot of money, but you wonder if it had gone on, how much money this could have been?" he said.
Rocha retired in April while under investigation.
The program she headed offered English classes to non or limited English-speaking adults. Skorkowsky said the district is in the process of rolling that program into another one.
Rocha is scheduled to appear in court on July 24.

Arraignment set for former Virginia edu. association leader

Another court date is set for a Smithfield woman charged with embezzling more than $43,200 from the Isle of Wight County Education Association, an organization that she once led.
After having already been indicted by a grand jury on July 14, Stephanie Bailey is scheduled to be arraigned on Wednesday, July 30, in Isle of Wight County Circuit Court on a charge of embezzlement, according to the docket posted at the Virginia Courts website
As previously reported, Bailey had been president of the Isle of Wight Education Association from 2006 until August 2013.
Prompted by a call from the Virginia Education Association, the Smithfield Police conducted an investigation. This in turn led to Bailey’s arrest on Feb. 3. She reportedly brought herself in that day and was released on her recognizance. That means Bailey signed a document stating she’d be in court on an appointed day.
At the time, Lt. Patrick Valdez of the Smithfield Police Department said, “Her claim was she gave the money to the homeless and students in need.”
He said that the money came from dues that Bailey had been collecting.
“But she won’t give any names. I think that’s going to be the crux. She was unable to answer satisfactorily. Had she receipts… but she’s unable to account for any of it.”
As before, the Isle of Wight County School system declined comment.
“In regards to Stephanie Bailey, Isle of Wight County Schools is unable to make any statement as it is an ongoing legal matter,” said Kenita Bowers, spokeswoman.
Bowers had previously confirmed that Bailey was a school nurse at Windsor High School at the time of the arrest, but is no longer an employee of the system.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Secretary at Holy Trinity School in San Pedro busted for alleged $65,000 embezzlement


A former secretary at Holy Trinity School in San Pedro allegedly stole more than $65,000 in gift cards meant to be sold to parents to raise money for the campus, police and prosecutors said Tuesday.
Kimberly Rauch, 47, lived “above her means” during the period she allegedly took the cards and used them to purchase groceries, Los Angeles police Detective Don Eldridge said.
A criminal complaint filed at the Long Beach courthouse alleges Rauch took the gift cards purchased by the school in 2013 and 2014, and then used some of them at Vons grocery stores. She has pleaded not guilty to one count of grand theft by embezzlement and seven counts of second-degree commercial burglary.
Reached at home Tuesday, Rauch said she declined to comment on her case.
Asked to provide an attorney’s name, she refused.
An employee who answered the phone at the Santa Cruz Street parochial school Tuesday said the principal was on vacation. Calls to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles were not returned.
Police were called recently when a woman who runs the Holy Trinity’s gift card program suspected some were being stolen. She counted the cards, left them in the office, and later discovered $300 worth were missing. Rauch was the only person in the office during that time, Eldridge said.
The school dismissed Rauch and called in an accountant to conduct an audit that suggests more than $65,000 was taken, the detective said.
“I was able to get evidence to show this person was using these gift cards,” Eldridge said. “It looked to me like she was using them to buy groceries. Instead of using your paycheck, you are getting everything for free.”
Rauch’s Facebook page showed a profile photograph that indicates Rauch has a husband and two sons. Each count filed against her carries a punishment of up to three years in county jail.
Rauch was arrested July 14 and released Thursday after posting bail, jail records show. A hearing was scheduled in Long Beach court for July 30.
Just like with script fundraising programs in the past, churches and schools use gift cards to raise money. Groups buy gift cards in bulk from businesses at a discounted price, then sell them at full value to their members. The group pockets the extra money.
“Witnesses at the school say it appeared she was living above her means,” Eldridge said. “I think just maybe she saw an opportunity and got greedy.”
A similar case has been filed against a former church secretary at St. Barnabas Church in Long Beach. Maria Guadalupe Hernandez, 35, is charged with three counts of embezzlement that allege she stole more than $150,000 from the church from January 2009 to September 2011.
Trial is scheduled for Aug. 25.

Fayetteville woman charged with embezzlement

The wife of a man accused of bilking a church out of money in 2011 was arrested Tuesday on similar charges, the Hoke County Sheriff's Office said.
Donna Greene Bundy, 54, of the 2100 block of Constitution Drive in Fayetteville, is charged with embezzlement, a Sheriff's Office release said.
Her husband, Jeffrey David Bundy, was charged in November 2012 with obtaining property by false pretense, the release said.
An official from Ashley Heights Baptist Church at 10351 Aberdeen Road, reported that in July 2011, the church had hired Bundy, the owner of SG One Inc., for a project involving modifications of the building, the release said.
The agreed-upon price was $19,816, the release said, and church officials agreed to pay in advance so Bundy could purchase materials and other work-related equipment.
Chruch officials spent several months trying to get Bundy to do the work and finally told him to start the project or return the money, the release said.
Bundy refused to have any more communication with the church representatives, the release said, and was unable to be found.
Church officials contacted the Sheriff's Office and investigators found Bundy and filed the charge against him, the release said.

Donna Bundy's bail was set at $51,000.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

FTCC bookstore clerk charged with embezzlement

A 36-year-old assistant clerk at a community college bookstore was charged Monday with stealing thousands of dollars from the school.
Paul Gause Jr., of the 6100 block of Sabine Drive, was accused of stealing more than $8,700 from the Fayetteville Technical Community College bookstore during his employment, according to arrest records.
Fayetteville police said Gause began stealing from the bookstore in November 2012, records show.
Gause was charged with embezzlement of state property.

Bail was set at $25,000.

Monday, July 21, 2014

$150,000 music booster embezzler faked bank records, court documents allege

The treasurer of the Kenowa Hills Schools music booster program allegedly fabricated bank letters in an effort to cover up checks she wrote to herself from a booster account.

Details of admissions made by Robyn Amy Heintz, 40, are contained in court documents in 63rd District Court in Grand Rapids Township.

Prosecutors on Thursday, July 10, authorized a warrant for embezzlement of more than $100,000 against Heintz, who was elected to the Kenowa Hills Instrumental Music Boosters board in June 2010 and served as treasurer until June of this year.

In court documents, investigators allege she took more than $150,000.

Trouble with the bank account came to light in April, when board members were notified that a Huntington Bank account had reached a negative balance and "there were several suspicious debit transactions noted on the bank statement."

At that point, Heintz told board members she would contact Huntington to resolve the problem.

"Heintz would later admit to creating falsified letters to the board members from the bank, explaining that the charges were erroneously charged to the wrong account and the money had been restored," Kent County sheriff's investigators wrote in a court affidavit.

It wasn't clear how long the ruse succeeded, but by early May, board members called police to report possible fraud.

Investigators looked at the financial records and determined that suspicious charges began appearing in August 2010 and continued throughout Heintz's term. They allege the embezzlement reached nearly $200,000.

Heintz, in an interview with police, told detectives she replaced some of the money. However, police allege that more than $150,000 remains missing.

In an alleged confession, she told police she wrote checks to herself for cash and also used a bank-issued debit card for personal expenses.

She is to be arraigned in 63rd District Court at a later date.

The music booster program is described as a "parent-led, volunteer organization that exists to support the Kenowa Hills Public Schools band and orchestra programs."

The most recent tax documents available for the booster program, a 2011 filing, show it took in more than $45,000 after operating expenses.

That year, the program had a fund balance of nearly $80,000, according to the 990-EZ form involving tax-exempt status

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Former church secretary indicted for theft

A longtime administrative assistant at a Southern Baptist church in Alabama is accused of using a church credit card to make unauthorized personal purchases totaling more than $129,000 in a grand jury indictment alleging theft and fraud.

Deborah “Debbie” Mansell, 63, was arrested July 16. Mansell, until recently ministry assistant to the administration pastor at Highland Park Baptist Church in Muscle Shoals, Ala., faces charges of first-degree theft of property and 20 counts of fraudulent use of a credit card.

According to the Times Daily newspaper in Florence, Ala., an investigation was launched after an internal audit found discrepancies in financial records among more than 2,200 transactions that Mansell made from July 2011 until April 2014. Police said the investigation goes back only to 2011 due to a statute of limitations.

According to a web page archived last November, Mansell has been a member of Highland Park Baptist Church for 46 years and worked at the church for 23 years. She was described as a widow and mother of two with three grandchildren who “loves the Lord, HPBC and music.”

Highland Park lead pastor Brett Pitman told the Times Daily the church is “wounded and hurt” by Mansell’s alleged actions.

It’s the second time this year that a former staff member at Highland Park was charged with a serious crime. Jeff Eddie, the church’s long-time associate pastor for children and church administration, was arrested in February on multiple charges of child sex abuse.

Eddie, 42, who started work at Highland Baptist Church in 1998, reportedly told police during his initial questioning that he sexually abused so many children that he could not remember the number.

Eddie pleaded guilty in March to 20 counts of child sexual abuse and was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Local educator, bookkeeper sentenced for embezzlement

A former Walla Walla University finance professor and self-employed bookkeeper will spend time in federal prison on a charge of wire fraud in connection with the theft of more than $800,000 from a local dentist.
Dana G. Thompson of College Place was sentenced in U.S. District Court in the Tri-Cities this week to serve 18 months in prison.
Thompson taught finance at the Seventh-day Adventist university in College Place for 15 years and kept books for about 13 years for Walla Walla Dental Care owner Dr. Dan Laizure.
Thompson pleaded guilty in April and in May told the Union-Bulletin there were extenuating circumstances in the case, but did not give additional details.
The theft from Laizure was carried out by writing unauthorized checks from the dentist to himself, banks and other people in guise of insurance company refunds, according to court documents. Upon deposit, those checks electronically debited Walla Walla Dental care's account.
In addition to his prison sentence, Thompson was ordered to pay $823,832 in restitution. Laizure is to be repaid $773,832, while $50,000 will go to Traveler's Insurance for costs associated with Laizure's investigation of the loss of money.
Thompson has handed over $34,000 from the sale of his home and a gold coin collection, according to court documents.
Court documents from his sentencing hearing Tuesday state Thompson will be on probation for three years following his release from prison. He will have to make all financial information available to his probation officer, including authorization to conduct credit checks and see federal income tax returns. Thompson also must disclose all financial assets and liabilities to the supervising officer, and he cannot sell or give away an asset without court approval.
As well, Thompson cannot incur any new debt, open lines of credit or enter into any financial contracts without permission from his probation officer, sentencing documents said.
Authorities may search him, his home, office or vehicle at any time during his probation, and he must complete a mental health evaluation and follow certain treatment recommendations.
Thompson has waived his right to appeal. The court recommended he serve his sentence at the federal prison in Sheridan, Ore.

Woman accused of embezzling $70K from church

An Albuquerque woman faces an embezzlement charge after unauthorized financial charges worth thousands of dollars were discovered in accounts belonging to Indian Nation Baptist Church located at 417 Palomas DR SE.

According to her criminal complaint, White was the treasurer of Indian Nation Baptist Church from 2011 to 2014. She wasn’t a paid employee but a volunteer according to the church’s pastor Scott Tafoya.

During that time, the complaint says she embezzled an estimated $70,000 from the church, though Albuquerque police say that number may elevate to $90,000 before all is said and done.

The complaint says White would use the money for her own personal use, citing that unauthorized charges were made at local restaurants and grocery stores. Cash withdrawals were also made.

The complaint says White confessed to taking the money after Tafoya was phoned by the church’s bank about a check worth $210 bouncing. According to the complaint, the check was made out to a day care where one of White’s children was attending.

In 2013 alone, White’s complaint says there was a total of 63 unauthorized withdrawals/charges with a total of $42,407 lost to the Indian Nation Baptist Church.

The complaint also says White depleted a separate account for the church where money was being reserved for the church to build a new building.

Amidst it all, Tafoya says he forgives White.

“This hurts. That money was provided for us by God. But we’re praying for Misty,” he said.

White even admitted to giving money away to people going through hard times in her complaint. She also said she would like to repay the amount of money that she took.

4th of July Festival Fund embezzlement case

David Nurmi, a Chester man accused of stealing more than $2,000 from the city's 4th of July Festival fund, made a brief appearance in court Friday morning. Nurmie waived his right to a preliminary hearing, meaning this case will now go through circuit court. A closer look at the criminal complaint, though, reveals that the nine felony embezzlement charges against Nurmi stem from an investigation where Chester's mayor contacted state police regarding the alleged embezzlement. The complaint also indicates that Nurmi may have confessed his acts in a written statement to authorities, saying the money was taken from the account for personal use to satisfy debt that had been incurred by extended family members. Neither Nurmi or his defense attorney would not comment on that, or a conflicting report that it was all a miscommunication. In all, Nurmi is alleged to have taken $2,550 between June and November of last year. The alleged transactions happened on nine separate occasions from a community organization operating under the name City of Chester Centennial Committee. Nurmi's first appearance in circuit Court has not been set.

5 indicted in embezzlement of school district funds

Five people on Friday were indicted by a grand jury in connection with the embezzlement of nearly $300,000 from the Clark County School District.
The theft of public funds came from the district's Adult English Language Acquisition program, which has since been shut down.
Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky first learned of the theft last December. Skorkowsky called a press conference on Friday to discuss the indictment. During the press event he said he called police immediately upon learning of the crime.
"This is something that we are not going to tolerate in the Clark County School District," Skorkowsky said.
The 52-count indictment accuses program director Priscilla Rocha of falsifying time cards and directing money to co-defendants for personal use.
"We can't allow this. We are so cash-strapped as it is that we can't afford to let anyone take anything out of a student's hand," Skorkowsky said.
Skorkowsky said that Rocha, who had been with the district since 1990, is also accused of buying thousands of dollars' worth of computer equipment with program funds and giving it to schools in Mexico. The indictment additionally states she would charge students for dictionaries and pocket the cash.
The theft has forced the district to make policy changes, and more will come after additional documents are revealed to district leaders.
"We will be looking at all of our procedures when it comes to accounting, money and expenditures based upon those documents so we can see what we can put in place to prevent this from ever happening again," Skorkowsky said.
Las Vegas police served search warrants at the program office and elsewhere after being tipped off by an employee.
Rocha and three additional employees, who have yet to be identified, were placed on leave.
"This was a person supposedly in a position of authority. So was she given too much authority that allowed this type of supposed embezzlement of money for personal use?" FOX5 legal analyst Bob Massi asked.
Massi said that typically criminals are caught when someone turns them in.
"I think in this case $300,000 is a lot of money, but you wonder if it had gone on, how much money this could have been?" he said.
Rocha retired in April while under investigation.
The program she headed offered English classes to non or limited English-speaking adults. Skorkowsky said the district is in the process of rolling that program into another one.
Rocha is scheduled to appear in court on July 24.

Embezzlement Probe At Northwest High School Athletic Booster Club

Members of the Omaha Northwest High School Athletic Booster Club noticed they were short some cash and suspect one of their own of embezzling funds within the last year.
The missing funds were reported to police on Wednesday, although it is unclear how much money was stolen.
According to the report filed, it is believed the funds went missing sometime between May and December of 2013.
No word on any arrests at this point.
The booster club declined to comment.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Search Warrant Has Revealed New Details in Church Embezzlement Case

 In June we told you about a woman charged with embezzling money from Saint Marks Lutheran Church, and there is new information in her case.

This information is about Ellen Fields, not Edith, like originally reported, took the money, and just how much.

New information about the case shows that fields served as the church secretary and treasurer, and had full control of the church's accounts.It was found that she paid many personal bills out of these accounts. Investigators also found that over $30,000 were embezzled from the church checking account, and about $16,000 from the church's Visa account.

It turns out the embezzlement began in 2008, and lasted until May of this year. She already has indictments from the church's checking account, but will be facing more from the the church's Visa account.

Woman charged with embezzlement from football boosters bound over to circuit court

 A West Branch woman charged with embezzling money from the Ogemaw Heights Football Booster Club was bound over to 34th Circuit Court July 15. She has a preliminary examination scheduled for Aug. 6 at 11 a.m.

Tammy Patterson, 42, has been charged with embezzling more than $200 but less than $1,000 from a nonprofit organization while serving as the group’s treasurer.

According to Ogemaw County Prosecutor LaDonna Schultz, the incident occurred around Jan. 1, 2011.

“I think it was an ongoing thing while she was the treasurer,” Schultz said. “She got the monies as a result of her position.”

Patterson was removed from her position as treasurer during a special meeting of the booster club Jan 22.

Patterson was originally arraigned in 82nd District Court June 12. She was scheduled for a preliminary examination in district court July 15, but waived the hearing and waived her circuit court arraignment.

This maximum penalty for this charge is five years in prison, $10,000 or three times the amount embezzled, whichever is greater.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Woman Accused of Embezzlement Pleads Guilty, Sentenced to Mental Health Program

A woman accused of embezzling money from the U.S. School Service Employees Association of West Virginia admitted taking $13,000 from the union in court on Monday.

Debra Baker's attorney reached a plea agreement with the state, saying if she entered a guilty plea and completed 24 months of a mental health program, her case will be dismissed.

During the hearing, Prosecutor Joe Barki went over the details of what Baker did while serving as secretary. "She began to abuse that position and write herself additional monthly stipend checks beyond what she was supposed to receive every month," he said.

If Baker does not successfully complete her time in the mental court program, her guilty plea to embezzlement will be accepted. Baker would then be sentenced to no less than one year and no more than 10 years in the state penitentiary.

Baker was also ordered to pay back all of the $13,000 she took, which Barki said she has already done.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Greek Orthodox Priest accused of embezzlement

A Greek Orthodox priest accused of embezzling church money to support a luxury lifestyle was a no-show in court Thursday, writes the Greek Reporter.
Father James Dokos missed his first court appearance because his car broke down.
When the court clerk called Dokos‘ case, his attorney appeared alone, saying the priest’s car broke down on the way.
“There were some travel problems, and as a result, we communicated that it’s rescheduled for Monday afternoon,” Dokos‘ attorney Patrick Knight said.
According to prosecutors, Greek Orthodox priest James Dokos will be charged with felony theft amid allegations that he pocketed more than $110,000 from a church trust fund, reports ChicagoTribune.
According to Wisconsin authorities and a criminal complaint, Rev. Dokos used a Milwaukee Greek-Orthodox church’s funds to pay personal expenses while he was serving there. A formal investigation into the case had been launched by the district attorney’s office in Milwaukee last September but Rev. Dokos was not charged then.
The investigation looks into how money was distributed from the trust fund set up to benefit the Annunciation Church in Milwaukee. Dokos oversaw the trust fund as pastor at Annunciation before being transferred to Glenview’s Saints Peter and Paul in 2012.
In 2013, James Gottreich, Parish Council President at Saints Peter and Paul Church in Glenview, Illinois, wrote to Metropolitan Iakovos, the head of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago, asking to suspend the Rev. James Dokos, until the conclusion of the criminal investigation.
Then, the Greek Orthodox Church of Chicago removed Gottreich from the parish council while Metropolitan Iakovos wrote in a statement that he was “astonished” by the Glenview parish council’s “inappropriate suspicion and deceitful maneuverings rather than the support of its own pastor in time of need.”
The lawyers of Chicago’s Metropolis conducted their own review of the administration and use of the trust fund without finding any wrongdoing.

Former SC church bookkeeper sentenced in theft

A woman who worked as a bookkeeper at a church in Clover has been sentenced to two years in prison for stealing more than $600,000.
The Herald of Rock Hill reported that 67-year-old Sandra Stroupe was sentenced in U.S. District Court on Friday.
Prosecutors say she took the money from the Clover Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church while working as a bookkeeper. They say she used the money to pay for living expenses, buy gifts and luxuries and pay off credit card debt.
Stroupe also must pay $610,000 in restitution.
She pleaded guilty in March to mail fraud.
Stroupe was the church's bookkeeper for 38 years. Court documents say the thefts occurred between 2006 and 2013.

Read more here:

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Embezzlement from Pojoaque church collections reported in New Mexico

The Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a report that about $9,000 was embezzled from weekly collection deposits at the Nuestra SeƱora de Guadalupe del Valle church in Pojoaque between September 2011 and June 2014.
Maj. Ken Johnson, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office, said Friday that investigators have identified a person of interest in the case but had not yet interviewed the person.
Johnson said a staff member at the Catholic church contacted authorities on Thursday after the church employee noticed some deposit slips had been altered

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Ex-Girl Scouts CEO gets 3 months for embezzlement

A former Girl Scouts executive in Virginia will serve a three-month sentence after pleading guilty to embezzling nearly $23,000 from the organization.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports ( that 62-year-old Linda Carne of Crozier was sentenced Monday. A Hanover Circuit Court judge suspended all but three months of a five-year sentence.
Carne pleaded guilty in April. She served as CEO of the Girl Scouts of the Commonwealth of Virginia from April 2010 to December 2011.
Prosecutors say Carne used a Girl Scout-issued credit card to pay for stays in posh hotels, baseball game tickets, spa services and rental of a North Carolina beach house.
The former leader of the 12,000-member Girl Scouts of the Commonwealth of Virginia will serve three months in jail for a felony embezzlement scam that drained an average of more than $1,000 a month from Scout funds.
Linda Carne, 62, had entered a guilty plea in April and was released on bond after hearing special prosecutor Matthew Ackley describe a complex scheme in which Carne disguised family trips and luxury accommodations as part of outreach efforts.
Hanover Circuit Court Judge Patricia Kelly ordered Carne, a former associate of author Patricia Cornwell and an administrator at Randolph-Macon College, to serve five years in prison, but she suspended all but three months.
Carne will serve 85 percent of that term and was taken immediately into custody as a smattering of well-wishers and detractors watched from the courtroom. Kelly said Carne can apply for work release if she is eligible.
Carne, who lived in Crozier, pleaded guilty after a complex investigation by forensic accountants that cost nearly $52,000 — more than twice the $22,979.80 that Carne admitted she stole.
Carne was fired in December 2011, about 20 months after having been brought into the administrative branch of the 12,000-scout, century-old organization in April 2010.
Carne was paid in excess of $100,000 a year, according to the Girl Scout organization, which covers some 30 counties and multiple cities, including Richmond, in the central Virginia region.
Ackley said earlier this year that investigators with the Virginia State Police and forensic accountants tracked down alleged contacts Carne said she had made on trips across the country, but discovered that Carne rarely, or barely, met with them.
Instead, she used her Scout-issued credit card to stay at such luxury hotels as The Algonquin in New York City, attended an equestrian event in Kentucky that cost $4,218, and scheduled her trips to coincide with professional baseball games in Major League cities. She often took family members along.
“This is not a happy day for us,” a Scout spokesperson said when Carne was convicted, noting that tight restrictions have been placed on the use of the Scout credit card.
After Carne resigned, she worked briefly in Ashland for Randolph-Macon College’s Center for Personal and Career Development. She was the former executive director of the Virginia Institute of Forensic Science and Medicine, the brainchild of former Richmond crime novelist Patricia Cornwell, who envisioned the institute as a training ground for forensic scientists.
The institute shut down when the General Assembly declined to fund it.