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.

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