Thursday, December 31, 2015

Rev. Robert Couture guilty of embezzling $169K from church in Canada

A jury in Windsor has convicted a southern Ontario Catholic priest of embezzling more than $150,000 from his Tecumseh church.
Assistant Crown attorney Tom Meehan said Thursday he will seek jail time for Rev. Robert Couture.
Couture could face up to 10 years in jail, Meehan said outside the Ontario court of justice in Windsor.
Couture, 52, was released on a promise to appear Feb. 5, when a date will be set for sentencing.
Jurors began deliberations at 5 p.m. Wednesday before breaking at 8:30 p.m. They returned a guilty verdict at about 10 a.m. Thursday.
Meehan said he was pleased with the jury's verdict, calling Couture a trusted figure in the community who broke that trust.
During the trial, which started Nov. 24, the jury heard Couture used the money to fund a lavish lifestyle that included trips to Europe, New York, Disney theme parks and fine dining.
Couture was parish priest at Ste. Anne Parish's church in Tecumseh, just east of Windsor, when parish officials asked KPMG to conduct a forensic audit of the church's books. That investigation found thousands of dollars in missing funds between 2002 and 2010, and prompted the parish to contact police.
Ontario Provincial Police said the audit revealed at least $169,000 in irregularities, and Couture was charged with one count of theft over $5,000 nearly two years ago.
The Crown accused Couture of stealing in several ways, including taking money from collection plates and charging fees to funeral homes.
Couture would charge $260 for "prayer teams" to come to funerals, but he would then give the church cheques for only $125 to $140, and pocket the rest.
Second bank account
Couture told the jury he opened a second account for Ste. Anne without permission from the diocese.
When asked by the Crown why he needed this separate TD Bank account, considering Ste. Anne's already had an account at National Bank, Couture said used his "pastoral judgment."
Couture was the only person able to access the account, which he said he opened in order to simplify the distribution of money donated from his parishioners. He also said the bank account allowed…

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Michigan Supreme Court to Hear Dispute Case Between Church and Former Pastor

The Michigan Supreme Court decided Wednesday that it would hear arguments on whether it should intervene in a dispute between a Grand Rapids church and its former pastor who claims he was illegally removed from his post.
The now defunct Pilgrim's Rest Missionary Baptist Church started falling apart in 2011 when the church booted the Rev. Arthur Pearson for embezzling church funds.
At issue now, however, is whether he can contest his dismissal in court or whether the Constitutional separation of church and state means the courts will have to just stay out of it, according to
Pearson and church secretary Gerolanita Bailey entered no contest pleas to embezzlement in 2013 and were ordered to pay back more than $220,000 stolen from the congregation and spent on personal items, read the report. They currently still owe $146,641 of that debt.
Pearson filed a lawsuit claiming he was the victim of wrongful termination because he had the support of many in the congregation to stay in his job. The dispute split the church into factions and the congregation is now battling over donations collected in the name of the defunct church.
Kent County Circuit Court Judge Dennis Leiber attempted to get rid of the case last year charging that the issues "stray into questions of religious doctrine or ecclesiastical polity."

A decision by the Michigan Court of Appeals in April said while the pastor's claims of breach of contract and other employment issues fall under religious exemption, the issues of who gets the money is still open to the decision of the court.
On Wednesday, the Michigan Supreme Court decided it would hear arguments in the case.
"On order of the Court, the application for leave to appeal the April 23, 2015 judgment of the Court of Appeals is considered. We direct the Clerk to schedule oral argument on whether to grant the application or take other action. MCR 7.305(H)(1). The parties may file supplemental briefs within 42 days of the date of this order, but they should not submit mere restatements of their application papers," noted the order.
Pearson's attorney, Jerry Ashford, told the Associated Press that the case is important because there will be "anarchy" in certain churches if earlier court decisions stand.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Allred’s move to quash subpoena in Oklahoma church case

Jeffrey and Stephani Allred, through their attorneys, have filed separate motions to quash a subpoena seeking their financial records.
Earlier this month, attorneys for the Journey Church and the church’s elder board issued a subpoena to the National Bank of Sallisaw, demanding the bank produce the financial records of Jeffrey Allred and records pertaining to Hope Trailer Sales, owned by Allred.
Jeffrey Allred, the former pastor of Journey Church, is the subject of a criminal embezzlement investigation by the Sallisaw Police Department and civil action brought by Journey Church and its elder board.
Allred is accused of using a Journey Church credit card for personal purposes. The civil action by the church is an attempt to recoup some of the money lost in the credit card purchases allegedly made by Allred. A criminal embezzlement complaint was filed against Allred by a church member after an audit discovered the discrepancies.
Stephani Allred is not a party to either of the actions, but submitted a special appearance and objection to the subpoena seeking the financial records for the reason that she is a non-party.
The Allreds are represented by attorneys S. Greg Pittman and Wesley Carter of Winters and King, Inc., of Tulsa.
On Stephani Allred’s behalf, the attorneys claim the financial records sought by the church will illegally disclose non-party financial records in violation of the Oklahoma Financial Privacy Act.
The motion says Stephani Allred has not been served with the subpoena as required by Oklahoma statutes.
Under those statutes, the attorneys argued a financial institution is prohibited from giving, releasing or disclosing any financial record to any government authority unless it has written permission from the customer for the specific record requested, or it has been served with a subpoena issued for the specific record requested.
Stephani Allred is a non-party to the lawsuit and has not given written consent for her financial records to be released to the plaintiff (church), attorneys argued. They further said the church has not complied with requirements of Oklahoma statutes that requires a copy of the subpoena to be served or mailed to the customer (Allred) on or before the date the subpoena is served on the financial institution.
“Plaintiff has not served the subpoena on Ms. Allred, much less served her before plaintiff served the subpoena on National Bank of Sallisaw as is required by law,” the motion said.
The attorney’s asked the court to quash the subpoena and that a protective order be issued protecting her from the “unauthorized and illegal” release and disclosure of her financial records.
The attorneys filed a similar motion to quash the subpoena on behalf of Jeffrey Allred.
“Although the basis for plaintiff’s claims is that the defendant allegedly misused plaintiff’s corporate credit card by making unauthorized purchases, plaintiff seeks in excess of five years of defendant’s personal records including bank statements, investment statements and loan records. These records are neither relevant, nor could they potentially lead to relevant evidence,” the motion read.
Allred’s attorneys argue in the motion that the subpoena is overly broad and seeks information that is far outside the scope of discovery.
“Plaintiff lists seven broad categories of documents sought including 48 sub-categories. Plaintiff’s subpoena further indicates that the information sought by the subpoena includes, but is not even limited to, the 48 sub-categories,” attorneys argued.
The attorneys said the amount if information sought in the subpoena is “staggering and greatly exceeds information that is reasonably calculated to lead to evidence relevant to the plaintiff’s claim.”
The relevant information, or documents for discovery, according to Allred’s attorneys, are the church’s credit card statements and the documents related to the purchases made with the credit card.
“There is no basis for plaintiff’s need for the entirety of defendant’s financial records and documents, and such an onerous intrusion into defendant’s personal and private information appears designed to harass and annoy defendant,” the motion said.
Because all loans and accounts are jointly held by Jeffrey Allred and Stephani Allred, their attorneys argued the subpoena should be quashed because Stephani Allred is a non-party to the actions and has not given her permission for the records to be released.

In addition to asking that the subpoena be quashed, the attorneys also sought a protective order for Jeffrey Allred.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Man charged with embezzling from Somerset church in Maryland

Maryland State Police charged the treasurer of a Marion Station church with stealing nearly $17,000 worth of funds from the congregation since spring of 2015.
James Franklin Powell, 34, of Marion Station, faces several criminal charges, including embezzlement, theft and theft scheme in connection with an investigation started last month, police said.
On Nov. 30, state troopers began a theft investigation involving Quindocqua United Methodist Church on LQ Powell Road in Marion Station. Police said the church was notified by PNC Bank that its account was in the negative.
Investigators were informed that James Franklin Powell was the church treasurer and had been in that position since 2004. Police said PNC Bank supplied the church with several copies of checks that were written to Powell for several thousand dollars. Powell denied writing the checks, police said, although he was the only person in possession of the church’s checkbook.
Subpoenas were issued for the church’s PNC Bank records, police said.  A review of those records showed over 23 fraudulent transactions were made from the church’s bank account between April 3 and November 13, totaling a loss of $16,972.
Police said video surveillance was also obtained which showed Powell cashing several of the church’s checks that were made out to hims for several thousand dollars. Further review of the church’s bank account showed that Powell had made numerous payments to his Chase Visa Credit Card and American Express Credit Card, police said.
Powell later confessed to stealing the money from the church, police said.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Santa Paula library aims to recover funds after embezzlement in California

The Blanchard Community Library in Santa Paula has settled with a former auditor hired to review the library's accounts at a time when at least $470,000 was allegedly stolen.

Accountant Arthur Martinez and his Camarillo-based firm Arthur Martinez & Associates will pay the library $117,500 under the settlement signed Dec 15.

In return, the library has agreed to not pursue any claims against the accountant or his firm. The agreement states that Martinez and his company do not admit any liability in the embezzlement case.

Ned Branch, the library's interim director, said Martinez was contracted to audit the library's finances between 1995 and 2013. Martinez had not yet completed the biennial 2010 to 2012 financial audit when library officials discovered money missing from the institution's accounts in 2013, Branch said.

A former financial officer at the library, Tammy Ferguson, has been charged with embezzlement. She was fired in May 2013 after the library's board discovered irregularities. Ferguson's arraignment is scheduled to continue on Feb. 17. She could face a maximum of 12 years and four months in jail if found guilty.

Branch said the board believes the alleged embezzlement could have been detected sooner if Martinez had done a better job of auditing the library's accounts.

"The embezzlement had been going on for a number of years, so the board felt that there were some deficiencies in the work that had been done," Branch said. "We certainly felt that Martinez, if he'd been a bit more diligent, could have found what was going on."

Contacted about Branch's assertions, Martinez' attorney, Michael Dewberry, responded by email.

"The facts and the evidence are completely contrary to the comment you attribute to the library," he wrote. "Mr. Martinez performed his work responsibly and properly and strongly disagrees with this comment."

Exactly how much Ferguson allegedly stole will likely never be known, Branch said. Forensic accountants hired by the library to investigate the alleged theft documented $473,000 in missing funds, he said. However, the accountants extrapolated that the total amount stolen could be over $700,000 based on the patterns they found, he noted.

Bank and other records are obtainable only back to around 2006, but the theft could have been going on longer than that, Branch said. Ferguson began working at the library in 1993.

Branch said it would be really coincidental if it turned out that the very first theft occurred with the very oldest document that they could find.

Prosecutors did not need to specify the exact amount allegedly stolen to press charges against Ferguson, only that it is over $200,000, Deputy District Attorney Thomas Frye said. An exact figure will be specified if the court orders restitution, he said.

Branch said the settlement fee from the auditor will help the library cover the cost of investigation services and attorney's fees related to the alleged embezzlement. The library has also received $435,000 from its insurance firm toward the losses.

"We feel we've recovered as much as we're going to be able to," he said. "We agree with the forensic accountants, because the records show a pattern, that probably (embezzlement) was going on even before the period we can actually document, but we'll never be able to adequately prove that."

Additional assets could be recovered as a result of the pending criminal case, but that's not certain, Branch said.

In the meantime, the library's insurance firm, Great American Insurance Co., is pursuing a claim against Martinez in Ventura County Superior Court, according to the settlement agreement.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Former Cumberland PTO president faces embezzlement charge in North Carolina

Cumberland County authorities said Tuesday that they have charged a former Parent Teacher Organization president with stealing from the group.

Amber Nicole Tripp, of 1609 Crescent Drive in Spring Lake, was arrested Friday on an embezzlement charge and was released on a $3,000 unsecured bond.

Investigators said Tripp embezzled $2,695 from the Manchester Elementary School PTO in March by taking cash from the Scholastics book fair and not depositing the cash into the PTO bank account.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Former city of Radford employee charged with embezzlement

A former city of Radford employee was arrested Monday and charged with embezzlement.

Bridget A. Lester, 38, of Radford, was employed at the Radford Recreation Department, according to a city news release. Lester was arrested and faces charges of embezzlement and misuse of public assets and an investigation that led to the charges showed the amount of funds in question to be $9,816.43, according to the release.
Lester faces 16 counts of embezzlement greater than $200 and one count of misuse of public asset.
The charges stem from an investigation that included dates between Oct. 1 and Nov. 30 , 2015, according to the release.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Embezzlement cases continue to plague California area

Barbara Jean Tabaldi is facing a tough holiday season. The 52-year-old former treasurer of the Kelly School Parent Teacher Organization is facing charges of embezzling $48,979 from the organization.
She was arrested Dec. 3 and released on $50,000 bail until her next court appearance on Dec. 28 in the Manteca Branch of San Joaquin Superior Court. Her charges are one in a string of embezzlement cases that have been brought throughout the county in the last year.
Tabaldi is accused of mismanaging the school’s PTO Club and Teachers PTO accounts from July 19, 2010, through July 1, 2014 and using a debit card for personal expenses such as a Disney Resort in October 2013.
Embezzlement continues to be a large problem in San Joaquin County. PTOs are an easy target due to the fact that they deal with large sums of money from fundraisers often held to help pay for school activities.
Defendants in PTO cases range from school district employees to parents and volunteers. Tabaldi was a mother and volunteer with the group.
There are things PTOs and similar organizations can due to minimize their risk. San Joaquin Deputy District Attorney Stephen Taylor suggests rotating treasurers at least every year, and have a finance committee monitor bank reconciliations, cancelled checks and bank and credit card statements in committee regularly. 
Lack of standard protocols by such organizations on the handling of money leads to continued problems with PTO embezzlements.
Taylor suggests school districts impose rules or standards on the PTOs operating in their schools so that as a minimum no one person has enduring sole control over the money and records.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Woman repays half of $6K embezzled from Bay High School band students as part of plea deal in Mississippi

A woman who embezzled $6,000 Bay High band students had earned for a trip to Florida has repaid half the money as part of a plea deal, a prosecutor said.
Kimberly Luxich, 43, faced a 10-year prison term for embezzling money the band members had raised to pay for a trip to perform at Disney World in Orlando in 2013.
She pleaded guilty Monday in Hancock County Circuit Court.
The state planned to recommend prison time but her attorney asked if she could make a sizeable payment to stay out of prison, and leaders of the Band Boosters Club agreed, Assistant District Attorney Chris Daniel said.
Allowing Luxich to repay half the money now means students who earned the money and are now seniors will benefit from part of what they raised, Daniel said. Luxich brought $3,000 in money orders to court for deposit in the booster club account, he said.
Judge Roger Clark imposed a 10-year prison term, suspended eight years and ordered Luxich to be on house arrest for two years. She also must repay the rest of the money.
Luxich was treasurer of the band's booster club and was the only person authorized to handle its bank account, Daniel said.
She admitted she had started taking money to pay bills and intended to pay it back but said she couldn't afford to do it, Daniel said.
Bay St. Louis police arrested her Aug. 7, 2013, after receiving a complaint of missing money. She was suspected of embezzling $12,000. Prosecutors could only prove she took about $6,000, Daniel said.
"The Hancock County community rallied around the band to raise money so the students could make their trip," he said. "They actually raised more money than we could prove she took."

Read more here:

Friday, December 18, 2015

Parent Volunteer Accused of Embezzling Money From Sunnyside School PTA Fund in Washington

 A parent volunteer with the Sunnyside School District is accused of stealing thousands of dollars from the PTA. The woman went before a judge Monday afternoon, facing embezzlement charges.
39 year old Andrea Monelle Gatica is believed to have been stealing money from the PTA for over a year long span.
Gatica is accused of stealing more than $5,000 from the Sun Valley Elementary School PTA starting in 2012. Gatica was the PTA's president, but resigned in 2013, at which point the school district reviewed finances, finding more than $35,000 were unaccounted for.
When questioned by police Gatica admitted to spending $3,000 to pay for bills and food, something the school district was not pleased to find out.
"I would say we were surprised and disappointed," Superintendent Rick Cole said, "But I think it's important to distinguish that this is not a school program, it's a school booster club that ran itself independently of the school district."
During the investigation in 2014 Gatica changed her story and told police she was protecting her daughter, who allegedly stole an additional $1,700. In addition police found that Gatica had used the PTA credit card at various restaurants and gas stations over the course of that year.  
She's currently facing charges of first degree theft, if convicted she could face up to 10 years in prison and fines up to $20,000.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Man enters guilty plea in school embezzlement case in Michigan

A Midlander accused of embezzling from a Midland preschool has entered into a plea agreement that could leave him with a misdemeanor, rather than a felony, record.
Lawrence William Weideman, 41, was charged with one count of embezzlement of $20,000 to $50,000 from the St. John’s Episcopal Cooperative Pre-School. Midland Police began investigating the case in May.
Midland County Circuit Court Judge Stephen P. Carras recently accepted a plea of guilty to that charge. Court documents state the deal calls for a one year sentence delay, with the misdemeanor charge of embezzlement between $200 and $1,000 entered onto Weideman’s record if he successfully completes the delay.
Weideman is to pay $10,000 toward restitution at the time of his Jan. 14 sentencing.
Preschool employees told Midland Police they believed the embezzlement began in August of 2013, after Weideman became treasurer, court documents state. A review of bank accounts, conducted by employees, showed direct transfers to a personal bank account from the preschool’s bank account, as well as checks written from the preschool’s account, then deposited into a personal account.
Some deposits were made into the preschool’s account from a personal account. “When the preschool account was going to be short for payroll, deposits were always made to cover the amounts,” court records state.
The activity continued until May of 2015. The total believed to have been embezzled is $34,084, the documents state.
Weideman is free on an $11,000, 10 percent bond, and is being represented by Midland attorney Courtney L. Thom.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Former Shaw School District transportation director pleads guilty to embezzlement in Mississippi

The former transportation director for the Shaw School District pleaded guilty to one count of embezzlement.
Willie Alexander was sentenced to two years of probation.
He also received at $1,000 fine and ordered to pay more than $3,580 in restitution.
His sentence is non-adjudicated.
Alexander was arrested and served with a demand for 4,142.82, in October after an investigation uncovered that he was allegedly using the Shaw School District’s Fuelman card to purchase items such as food, beer, and cigarettes.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Johnston teacher charged with embezzlement after cashing checks meant for school in his name in Rhode Island

A high school teacher in Rhode Island has been charged with embezzlement after allegedly putting his name on checks meant for school activities.

WPRI-TV reports ( 57-year-old Johnston High School science teacher Greg Russo was arraigned Friday on two counts of forgery and one count of embezzlement.

Police say Russo wrote his name on several checks meant for school activities and cashed them. They declined to say how much money was involved or what school activities the money was destined for.

The station said Russo did not respond to requests for comment and the school district declined to comment other than to say the longtime teacher has been suspended with pay.

Russo is due back in court in February.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Kelly PTO treasurer charged with embezzlement in California

The former treasurer of the Kelly School Parent Teacher Organization is accused of embezzling $48,979 from the organization.
Barbara Jean Tabaldi, 52, of Tracy, was arrested by Tracy Police Department on Dec. 3 and booked into the county jail on a $50,000 arrest warrant, according to a Wednesday news release from the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s office.
Tabaldi is accused of mismanaging the school’s PTO Club and Teachers PTO accounts from July 19, 2010, through July 1, 2014, as well as withdrawing funds using a debit card that she had issued in her name, according to court documents.
It is also alleged that she used the debit card at Disney Resorts during October 2013 without the knowledge or permission of the two PTO clubs.
Tabaldi verbally resigned as treasurer on July 8, 2014, after holding the position since July 1, 2010.
The criminal charges against her followed an investigation by Tracy Police Detective Alexi Kalinin and a forensic examination of the finances of the school PTO conducted by Vavrinek, Trine, Day & Co., a Pleasanton accounting firm, according to the release.
The Kelly School principal could not be reached for comment as of press time.
District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar stated that “maintaining strong accounting controls, rotating bookkeeping duties and maintaining insurance are key to controlling embezzlements.”
“The district attorney’s office is doing everything possible to fight these crimes, which we see as a threat to quality of life,” she said in the release. “Embezzlements hollow out businesses and organizations — killing jobs and cutting services which the people of San Joaquin County rely on.”
Tabaldi, who was released from the county jail last week, promised to appear for arraignment at 1:30 p.m. Dec. 28 in the Manteca Branch of San Joaquin Superior Court.
The prosecutor of the case, Deputy District Attorney Stephen Taylor, said Wednesday that the district attorney’s office believed that pressing embezzlement charges in situations like this could help solve the problem.

“I hope if we keep prosecuting these cases, there will be enough notice that people will tighten their businesses up,” he said. “This is a problem, and the only way to stop it is for victims to be more resistant.”

Barbara Jean Tabaldi is facing a tough holiday season. The 52-year-old former treasurer of the Kelly School Parent Teacher Organization is facing charges of embezzling $48,979 from the organization.
She was arrested Dec. 3 and released on $50,000 bail until her next court appearance on Dec. 28 in the Manteca Branch of San Joaquin Superior Court. Her charges are one in a string of embezzlement cases that have been brought throughout the county in the last year.
Tabaldi is accused of mismanaging the school’s PTO Club and Teachers PTO accounts from July 19, 2010, through July 1, 2014 and using a debit card for personal expenses such as a Disney Resort in October 2013.
Embezzlement continues to be a large problem in San Joaquin County. PTOs are an easy target due to the fact that they deal with large sums of money from fundraisers often held to help pay for school activities.
Defendants in PTO cases range from school district employees to parents and volunteers. Tabaldi was a mother and volunteer with the group.
There are things PTOs and similar organizations can due to minimize their risk. San Joaquin Deputy District Attorney Stephen Taylor suggests rotating treasurers at least every year, and have a finance committee monitor bank reconciliations, cancelled checks and bank and credit card statements in committee regularly. 
Lack of standard protocols by such organizations on the handling of money leads to continued problems with PTO embezzlements.
Taylor suggests school districts impose rules or standards on the PTOs operating in their schools so that as a minimum no one person has enduring sole control over the money and records.

Church rocked by scandal, priest accused of affair and embezzlement in New York

A New York priest is facing some very serious allegations, including theft and a secret sexual affair.
Bells ringing outside Saint Frances de Chantal. The only sense of normalness here after the parish is rocked by scandal. All focusing on the leader of the church, Father Peter Miqueli.
The details of alleged embezzlement and secret sexual escapades, all documented in a civil lawsuit filed against the Father and the Archdiocese of New York.
“He’s a troubled man. Not a good man.”
It’s a sentiment felt among many parishioners, who say for two years, they’ve complained to the diocese, only to be ignored.
The lawsuit, stating how Miqueli allegedly used his position as a pastor to misappropriate and divert hundreds of thousands of dollars of donations from parishioners at St. Frances de Chantal and at St. Frances of Cabrini on Roosevelt Island.
It also alleges he used funds to grow personal wealth, purchase a house in New Jersey, take international vacations, Illegal drugs, and for alleged weekly services of sexual affairs with a man named Keith Crist.
“Anytime we did fundraising, things just weren’t right. I’ve heard of a lot of things not getting paid. He’s asking for money to take care of; he doesn’t even take care of our school.”
Reporter: “you don’t have a comment?”
Father Peter Miqueli: “I have no comment”
Those who work for the parish, including the assistant pastor and other workers refused to comment.
Calls made to Crist and Miqueli were not returned.
No sighting of Miqueli at the rectory, or his brick, New Jersey home, where he’s alleged to have used church funds in order to purchase.
The lawsuit has shocked long term church members who both support and despise the Father.
“It’s just very sad. That’s all I have to say. Very sad. Very, very, very sad.”
“And whoever is saying this has to be very careful that they don’t go to hell.”
Some church members want him to step down as leader of this church before the end of the year.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Blake embezzlement trial postponed in Wisconsin Church Embezzlement

The jury trial for Michelle M. Blake, which had been set to be heard in Burnett County Circuit Court last week has been postponed until May 2, 2016.
Blake, who had worked as secretary/bookkeeper for St. John the Baptist Church and Sacred Hearts Church from Oct. 2010 to Sept. 2013, had allegedly written 47 checks to herself from the St. John the Baptist’s checking account totaling $42,959.61 and 30 checks from the Sacred Hearts checking account totaling $34,904.22.
Court records also indicate unauthorized withdrawals from the church checking accounts plus unauthorized charges against church credit cards totaled $128,000.
“It has come to our attention that additional and heretofore unknown computer and other evidence has come to light which may be exculpatory in nature — and the computer evidence will require forensic analysis at the Wisconsin Crime Lab,” Bill Norine, Burnett County’s DA, wrote in a letter to Judge Ken Kutz in November. “In the interest of justice, judicial economy and the need for a litigated result that will withstand appeal, the parties request the trial be continued.”
The judge granted the continuance.

The crimes, two counts of theft from a business setting in excess of $10,000, are Class G felonies. If convicted, Blake could face up to $25,000, up to 10 years in prison, or both, per count.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Embezzlement suspected at Hunger Free Vermont

The leader of Hunger Free Vermont says an employee embezzled thousands of dollars from the organization's reserve fund, deceiving fellow employees and auditors for about a decade.
Executive Director Marissa Parisi said in a statement Tuesday that she was "devastated" by the discovery.
Parisi declined to name the employee or discuss criminal charges until an FBI review is complete. The employee had "bookkeeping responsibilities" and had held the position for 11 years, she said.
The employee has been fired, but no criminal charges have been filed.
Eric Miller, U.S. Attorney for the District of Vermont, confirmed Tuesday evening that his office is actively investigating the allegations in conjunction with the FBI.
A local bank flagged unusual activity in Hunger Free Vermont's account about a month ago, Parisi said, and the organization's board of directors began a review.
"We looked closer and found quite a few fraudulent checks that confirmed that embezzlement had happened and had been going on for a long time," Parisi said.
Hunger Free Vermont helps to set up meal programs for children in school and child care, speaks out on hunger-related issues in politics and supports the state's food stamp program, 3SquaresVT. The group was founded in 1993 and works out of an office in South Burlington.
Parisi said the embezzlement means Hunger Free Vermont lacks cash reserves that would normally cover four months of operating expenses. She declined to say how much money had been in the reserve fund.
The organization reported a budget of just over $1 million in documents filed with the Internal Revenue Service for 2013.
Program expansions will be delayed, Parisi said, and the group's 14 employees will not receive any raises this year.
"Our primary goal is to make sure we can keep our programs going," said Parisi, who joined the organization as executive director in 2009.
Parisi said she's unsure how the suspected embezzlement went on for so long.
"We're asking ourselves that as well," Parisi said. "We had audits from a professional audit firm every year, so this went undetected by the audit firm."
The organization is reviewing its financial practices with an external accountant.
“We’re a very effective organization. We’re known around the country and that’s why this is so difficult for us," Parisi said.
Parisi is working to rebuild donors' trust and said a separate fund has been established to rebuild the reserve fund and cover the costs of the investigation

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Woman pleads guilty in Stoughton, Wisconsin Wrestling Club embezzlement

A Stoughton woman accused of embezzling money from a youth sports club for years will spend less than a year in jail but a decade of probation paying back her victims, according to online records.

Deanna R. Braaten, 50, pleaded guilty to six felony charges Monday, according to Dane County court records. Seven other counts were dismissed but read in.
Braaten was accused of bilking money from the Stoughton Viking Wrestling Club from 2009 through 2015, a total of $86,000.
Braaten was sentenced to 11 months in jail followed by 10 years probation. Braaten won't serve any prison time, but will instead be required to pay restitution. The need to work to pay restitution was a factor in the sentence, according to a Stoughton Courier Hub report.
Police also said detectives found evidence that Braaten had taken more than $270,000 from a vulnerable adult, a woman she helped care for, in Stoughton over the same time period, using those funds to cover her family's purchases and debts.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

T-Ball Coach Accused Of Embezzlement Surrenders, Bonds Out Of Jail in New Mexico

An Anthony man accused of collecting more than $1,000 in fees for a youth t-ball team surrendered to authorities this week and subsequently bonded out of jail.
Moises Martinez, 40, was booked into the Doña Ana County Detention Center on Dec. 1 just before 9 p.m. According to jail records, he posted a $3,500 secured bond the following day at 4:35 p.m.
Martinez is charged with embezzlement after he allegedly did not produce uniforms as promised and failed to hold any practices.
   According to Doña Ana County Sheriff’s Department detectives, several parents came forward to report they had answered a Facebook post from Martinez, who was reportedly organizing a t-ball team for children ages four to six years of age.
   Altogether, 13 parents paid Martinez $1,100 for registration fees, uniforms and t-shirts. Shortly after, Martinez began to cancel practice and did not return phone calls.
   One of the parents reported the incident to the sheriff’s department, which launched an investigation. 
   Parents of the children who signed up for the team reportedly began coaching the team themselves, with donated t-shirts.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Court documents show former youth athletic president embezzled funds in Oklahoma

A former athletic coordinator of a metro youth athletics organization was charged with embezzlement following an investigation by Midwest City police.
According to court documents, Michael Wayne Kiesel stole more than $10,000 from an organization that supports youth athletics in Choctaw and Nicoma Park.
Court documents show that Kiesel, 51, admitted to police he used some of the money at area casinos.
Aaron McConnell said Kiesel was the former president of Choctaw-Nicoma Park Youth Athletics. McConnell has since replaced him.
"It was really a one-man show," McConnell said. "He had ladies that did all of the legwork. He was just sitting at the top handling all the finances."
The detective working the case reported Kiesel admitted to using organization funds "as if it was his own personal account," according to court documents.
Kiesel has been charged with three counts of embezzlement. Prosecutors with the Oklahoma County District Attorney's office allege the unlawful use of money occurred between June 1 and Aug. 31.
The investigation revealed detectives reviewed bank statements for the organization after members reported the misuse of funds.
"The kids obviously don't know what's going on," McConnell said. "A lot of the parents knew. We already started changing it and going in the direction we want to go."
The detective also reported he found $17,030 in cash that was withdrawn from ATMs.
"He admitted to playing $500 a week at local casinos ... Kiesel admitted that the money he withdrew at casino ATMs went toward gambling," the detective reported. 
Kiesel had not been arrested as of Friday night.  Sources tell KOCO 5 that investigators are working on an arrest warrant.
KOCO 5 reached out to Kiesel numerous times by email and phone. He did not respond for comment.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Jail for Michigan priest who defrauded $500k from parish

A Michigan priest has been sentenced to 27 months in prison for stealing $573,000 from his church, reports RNS.

Rev Edward Belczak served St Thomas More Catholic Church in Troy for nearly 30 years. He pleaded guilty on September 1 to embezzlement and is paying back the money he stole.

Belczak is credited with having built up the parish into one of the largest and wealthiest in the archdiocese and his supporters had sent dozens of letters to the judge in the case asking for leniency.

However, Judge Arthur Tarnow said that a prison sentence was appropriate because Belczak was "stealing from the church and people who trusted you most".

Tarnow told him to "choose your friends wisely and you can do some good in prison".

Addressing the court before his sentence, Belczak said that as the leader of a prosperous parish he had wanted a lifestyle like that of his parishioners. He had used stolen church money to gamble on the stock market, he said, and had drunk heavily. "I was selfish and stole money that did not belong to me," Belczak said. "I became a deceiver and a liar."

He admitted: "I have stained the reputation of being a priest" and asked forgiveness of his parishioners.

He said to the judge after hearing his fate: "It's part of my destiny."

Ned McGrath, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said in a statement: "There is a lot of hurt resulting from this crime, a lot of wounded people. We continue to pray for healing at the parish and for all those impacted, including Fr Belczak."

Internal church proceedings will now commence against Belczak which could see him permanently barred from ministry.