Monday, February 29, 2016

Community rallies to support YEPAW after alleged embezzlement

The youth arts organization YEPAW has long shared the message that God can help people overcome anything.
Now it’s showing that it takes that message to heart.
In the wake of accusations that a former administrator stole more than $97,000 from the program, YEPAW leaders and supporters took the microphone at a community rally Sunday to promise the organization would prevail.
And the young performers underscored that message with their voices.
“Oh, how wonderful it is, Jesus promised he’ll take care of me,” sang about 60 teenage choir members in the opening number. Their joyful voices reverberated in the circular sanctuary of West Akron’s Mount Calvary Baptist Church. Many in the audience rose to their feet, swaying, clapping and singing along.
YEPAW — Youth Excellence Performing Arts Workshop — is both a performing arts and mentoring program. It uses the arts to engage middle and high school youth while it helps them build life skills and encourages them to pursue excellence, said its founder and artistic director, the Rev. Leslie Parker Barnes.
Last month its former executive director, Alexandra (Wright) Thomas, was charged with identity fraud and theft for allegedly opening a credit card account in Barnes’ name to siphon money from the organization.
Community members filled the sanctuary for Sunday’s rally to encourage the young people with their presence and donations. They cheered the performance, tossed money into offering baskets and purchased T-shirts bearing the hashtag message, #YEPAWSTRONG.
The event was a fundraiser, but it had a greater purpose, Barnes said before the rally.
“More than anything, [the purpose is] to charge these young people and tell them they are amazing,” she said. “Dreams really do come true.”
The alleged theft was never mentioned directly during the event, but the message was clear: YEPAW is determined to overcome the financial setback.
“The leadership is still strong. No question about it, God’s hand is still strong,” Kyle Earley, a minister at the church, told the spirited crowd. “Nothing can stop them, because God has already blessed them.”
The rally had a feeling of celebration, and the emphasis was on the impact YEPAW makes in its young participants’ lives. “I don’t know where I’d be,” one young member said in a short video shown during the rally.
The biggest ovation of the night went to Barnes, who is recovering from a fractured ankle and spoke from a wheelchair.
She promised YEPAW would continue to build on its mission of instilling purpose in young people and turning them into leaders.
“I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that YEPAW is the Lord’s,” she said, her voice rising above the applause. “He started it, and he’s gonna finish it.”
A Believing the Dream Campaign has been started on the crowd-funding website Go Fund Me to collect donations in support of YEPAW. Contributions can be made at

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Former church treasurer spent embezzled money on escorts, porn & drugs, judge says

 A former church treasurer spent hundreds of thousands of dollars he embezzled on a life of excess, including drugs, pornography and escorts, according to a Butler County judge.

Garry D. Meyer, 61, previously pleaded guilty to aggravated theft. He was sentenced Monday to five years in prison, the Journal-News reported.

Initially, a police report indicated, about $400,000 was stolen from Tri-County Baptist Church. But that amount eventually rose to more than $800,000, the Journal-News reported, which meant Meyer was indicted in December on a second-degree felony.

Garry Meyer
Meyer stole the money over the course of about 14 years, according to the indictment.

Tri-County Baptist's senior pastor, Brian McManus, said Meyer called him and confessed in October. At Monday's sentencing, McManus said Meyer's confession came only after his wife found out what he'd been doing.

Prosecutors said Meyer spent the money on his frequent trips to Florida, which, according to Judge Michael Oster, included cars, credit cards, porn, drugs and "high-end escorts," the Journal-News reported.

Meyer's wife began sobbing when her husband spoke to Oster before sentencing.

He told the court there was no excuse for what he'd done, then told his wife: "I am sorry for betraying your trust … you have always been the best part of my life."

McManus said Meyer's embezzlement hurt not only the congregation, but also more than 100 missionaries. The former treasurer vowed to work on fixing the relationships he'd destroyed, the Journal-News reported.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

West Covina parent accused of embezzling from PTA, Girl Scouts and Little League

A West Covina woman was arrested earlier this month after allegedly embezzling more than $78,000 from the PTA at her daughter’s school, a Girl Scouts troop and the West Covina American Little League, authorities said Monday afternoon.
Veronica Paderez, 37, was arrested on Feb. 4 and booked on suspicion of grand theft after detectives from the West Covina Police Department received reports she stole money from the PTA at Vine Elementary School, said West Covina police spokesman Rudy Lopez.
Paderez had been involved with the PTA since 2014 and had access to the association’s bank accounts. According to the school’s website, Paderez served as the group’s treasurer during the 2014-15 academic year.
A preliminary audit revealed the loss of more than $52,000 from several fraudulent transactions, Lopez said.
Further investigation revealed that Paderez was also involved in the finances belonging to the West Covina American Little League and Girl Scout Troop #4754, Lopez said. The youth baseball group has reported more than $26,000 in losses. Detectives are still trying to determine the exact loss incurred by the Girl Scouts.
Lopez said Paderez’s daughter is in the Girl Scout troop and that an older son participates in Little League.
According to online booking records, Paderez posted $85,000 for her bail the night of her arrest.
No charges have been filed.
Paderez did not respond to messages seeking comment.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Girl Scout leaders accused of embezzlement appear in court in West Virginia

Two Parkersburg women accused of embezzling girl scout funds appeared in Wood County court Tuesday. Denise Davis and Mary Farnsworth were indicted for embezzlement and conspiracy to commit a felony.
The former troop leaders allegedly took a trip to Disney World, Sea World and an Everglades Cruise with the stolen money.
Tuesday a plea deal was to be entered by both defendants in which they agreed to pay back $2,500 with all charges dropped and no admission of guilt.
MariJo Tedesco, a former employee of the Black Diamond Council, took the stand to convince the judge to look at the case again and reconsider the plea deal.
"Not once has anyone expressed concern for the girls that were used for the profit of those that were supposed to protect and nurture them. Girl Scouts are supposed to empower girls and make responsible, honest and productive adults of the girls involved. What are we teaching the girls and society as a whole if people in positions of authority are allowed to abuse their privileges over the span of years and endure no consequence for it," says Tedesco.
Judge Beane agrees to look at the case again and will have both parties submit statements to probation and probation will submit a complete report to the judge. If the judge rejects it, defendants will have to enter a plea.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Greek Orthodox priest pleads guilty to church embezzlement

A Greek Orthodox priest pleaded guilty Monday to embezzling more than $100,000 from his former parish in Wauwatosa, but under a deferred prosecution deal he will get only a misdemeanor conviction if he stays out of trouble for a year.
Neither the Rev. James Dokos nor his attorneys, Patrick Knight and Franklyn Gimbel, made any comment after a hearing before Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Jeffrey Conen.
Dokos, 63, of Chicago, was charged in 2014 with using about $100,000 intended for Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church for lavish dinners, jewelry for his wife and everyday expenses. He had been the pastor at the church about 20 years.
By the time he was charged, Dokos had already been transferred to Sts. Peter and Paul in Glenview, Ill., one of the largest and most affluent Greek Orthodox churches in the Chicago area.
Theft in a business setting of more than $10,000 — which is a felony — carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, plus five years of supervised release and a $25,000 fine. But Conen agreed to withhold entry of judgment, and if Dokos meets various reporting and community service requirements, in a year Conen will instead enter judgment for misdemeanor theft. As part of the agreement, Assistant District Attorney David Robles said he will recommend an unspecified fine at that time.
Robles also told Conen that he met earlier in the month with members of Annunciation to explain the agreement and take questions. He said Dokos has already paid restitution of more than $10,000, and that the plea settles all known criminal and civil actions arising from Dokos' conduct.
George Karcazes, a longtime member and volunteer in the Glenview parish, attended Monday's hearing.
"The biggest reason this is an insult," he said afterward, "is the bishop tried to get him off." Karcazes was referring to a letter sent, under seal, to Conen. Karcazes, a lawyer, said he planned to seek to have the letter unsealed.
He said for two years after news broke of Dokos' criminal charges in Wisconsin, some 40 families left the Chicago-area parish, and stewardship dropped $250,000.
Dokos was eventually suspended as pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul, but he remains a priest in good standing. Karcazes said he gets assigned to help out as needed at other Chicago area parishes.
Some of the money Dokos took from a trust intended to benefit Annunciation Church went to Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos, the No. 2 official in the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago, to which the Wauwatosa church belongs.
Karcazes said that when the Sts. Peter and Paul parish council president asked Metropolis officials to put Dokos on leave during the criminal case, he was instead removed from his position.
According to the criminal complaint against Dokos:
The theft was discovered by Annunciation's parish council in 2013, months after Dokos had transferred to Glenview. From 2008 to 2012, he diverted money from a trust a couple had left for the construction of a cultural center at the church while he was serving as successor trustee after the death of the trust's creator.
Ervin and Margaret Franczak created the trust in 1984. In 2004, Margaret Franczak, as the surviving trustee, named Dokos her successor. The last of several amendments to the trust occurred in 2007. Upon Margaret Franczak's death, Dokos was to get $5,000, a car and any property of the trust.
Twenty thousand dollars was to go to three charities, and all the rest to the church for a cultural center.
Margaret died in 2008. Dokos turned over $1.1 million to the church. But investigation revealed money remained in the trust, the complaint says, and Dokos had changed the address on the trust's bank account to his home in 2008.
Over the following years, according to the complaint, Dokos wrote checks for more than $110,000 for "clearly personal expenditures," such as gifts to his daughter, his cable bill, medical expenses, $5,000 for jewelry for Dokos' wife, trips and credit card bills.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Former Fire Official Indicted On Embezzlement Charges

Former Lincolnton Fire Department Assistant Chief William Vernon Fortenberry has been indicted on embezzlement charges. According to the North Carolina Court System website, Fortenberry has been indicted on nine felony counts of embezzlement.
According to various published reports, authorities confirm that Fortenberry, who is 50-years-old, was charged with four counts of embezzlement in connection with funds missing from the Lincoln County chapter of the North Carolina Burned Children Fund in addition to five counts of embezzlement connected to funds missing from Pisgah United Methodist Church in Lincolnton.
The investigation was reportedly conducted by the State Bureau of Investigation. Authorities say the probe focused on allegations that Fortenberry, who had held the position of treasurer with the Burned Children Fund since 1993, had mishandled funds in excess of $10,000.
Fortenberry was placed in the Lincoln County Jail under $36,000 secured bond. He's scheduled to appear in Superior Court next Monday (February 15). The investigation is ongoing.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Ex-NC State professor charged with embezzlement, placed on house arrest

NC State associate professor Scott Whisnant faced his first court appearance Thursday afternoon after turning himself in on three charges of embezzlement.
Whisnant turned himself in Wednesday upon University Police obtaining a warrant for his arrest on three charges of embezzlement. If found guilty, Whisnant could be in prison for 39 months, according to Judge Keith Gregory, whose court he made an appearance in Thursday afternoon. The embezzlement charges are felony level. 
Whisnant plead no contest. Whisnant’s attorney Christian Dysart asked that Whisnant be considered for pre-trial release. Gregory granted the request, on the condition that Whisnant remain under electronic house arrest for the duration of the trial.
Whisnant took $750 from the Agri-Life Council, $16,862 from the Alpha Zeta Agricultural Honors Fraternity, and $54,255 from the Animal Science Club over the past year, according to The News & Observer. Whisnant resigned from the animal science department the day before he turned himself in to the Wake County Sheriff's Department.
According to Dysart, Whisnant has made restitutions to the groups. Raleigh District Attorney Becky Holt confirmed that she had heard that restitution had been made, so she did not attempt to alter the charges against Whisnant.
The treasurer of the Animal Science Club tipped N.C. State auditors off to discrepancies in the club's bank statements on Jan. 14. University Police began investigating five days later, according to WRAL.
Charlotte Farin has taken over the teaching duties of Whisnant’s ANS 220 class. She told the class she didn’t have any details on the investigation, but she wanted the transition to go as smooth as possible, according to students enrolled in the class.

Animal Science Club fundraises most of its money through the milk booth at the State Fair.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Retired cop arrested on suspicion of embezzlement

Gerald Max Beamesderfer Jr., who often goes by his middle name, was arrested Tuesday, Feb. 9, after a yearlong investigation into a missing $250,000 from the center, according to the Riverside County Sheriff's Department. The 64-year-old Hemet man was released from jail Wednesday on $133,000 bail.
Beamesderfer worked for the Hemet Police Department for 19 years before leaving on an industrial disability retirement in 2004, Deputy Chief Rob Webb said via email. Webb said Police Department officials have had "little or no contact" with Beamesderfer for the past 12 years.
Though the Riverside County District Attorney's Office had not filed formal charges against Beamesderfer on Thursday, Webb said Beamesderfer's alleged involvement in the embezzlement perturbed him.
"It is very upsetting that anyone would take advantage of a place of worship, but it sickens me that a retired detective could be involved in this type of case," Webb said.
Riverside County sheriff's officials on Thursday refused to release the name of the religious center the money was embezzled from.
Leaders of the center reported the missing money in December 2013 and told investigators they believed Beamesderfer – the congregation's sole financial officer – was responsible, according to a Sheriff's Department news release.
After the investigation, deputies served a search warrant for financial records in the 1200 block of Bishop Drive in Hemet. A second warrant was served in the 300 block of Lyon Avenue in Hemet, where deputies reported finding construction equipment and other property believed to be related to the investigation.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

A Buddhist monk faces trial in March on charges he embezzled more than $200,000 from his Lafayette temple to feed a casino gambling habit

A Buddhist monk faces trial in March on charges he embezzled more than $200,000 from his Lafayette temple to feed a casino gambling habit.
Khang Nguyen Le was scheduled to plead guilty on Wednesday to wire fraud charges. But The Advocate reports ( that the plea agreement fell apart when Le told a federal judge that he couldn't understand how the charges applied to his case.
"I can't accept that," Le said through a translator.
Le defended his actions during the hearing and denied he intended to take cash from the bank accounts for the Vietnamese Buddhist Association of Southeast Louisiana Inc.
"My intent was never to steal money from the temple," Le told U.S. Magistrate Judge Patrick Hanna.
Le served as the temple's presiding monk from 2010 through October 2014, when he stepped down amid the investigation. His indictment last year said he withdrew money from temple accounts and used it for gambling at casinos in Lake Charles and elsewhere.
The indictment says Le lived and worked at the temple and earned a salary of $1,000 per month.
In a court filing last year, a federal agent said Le "admitted to having a gambling problem" and told investigators that he would spend up to $10,000 playing blackjack during his frequent trips to L'Auberge Casino in Lake Charles.
Le "said the church members would frown upon him even going to the casino if they knew; therefore, Le hid his gambling activity," the agent wrote.
Le told investigators that he always went to the casino alone, and congregation members never asked to see bank account statements.
The agent said bank records showed Le had withdrawn nearly $375,000 from temple and personal bank accounts either at L'Auberge Casino or on days when he traveled to the casino.
Le was arrested in September at LaGuardia International Airport in New York after he got off a flight from Dallas, before he could board a flight bound for Toronto, according to court records. Le's attorney, David Mayeux, has said his client was traveling to Canada to pick up a car for a friend and drive it down to Texas.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Man embezzled more than $100K from Saginaw Lutheran church, prosecutors say

Prosecutors say a former assistant Saginaw Township fire chief embezzled at least $100,000 from a Saginaw church.
George W. Pike, 70, is charged with embezzling more than $100,000, a felony that carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, and two other felonies.
His arrest warrant alleges he embezzled money from the trust fund of St. John Lutheran Church, 915 Federal in downtown Saginaw, from early 2011 through 2015.
Pike served as the church's council president, according to a report from WJRT, ABC 12.
St. John Lutheran is one of Saginaw's oldest churches, having been founded in 1852. It belongs to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Prosecutors on Thursday, Feb. 11, issued the embezzlement charge as well as single counts of forgery and uttering and publishing a forged check with intent to defraud. Those two charges carry 14-year maximum penalties.
Pike, who lives in Saginaw Township, turned himself in to authorities on Friday, and Saginaw County District Judge M.T. Thompson arraigned him. The judge entered a not guilty plea on his behalf and ordered him held on a $25,000 or 10 percent bond.
Pike posted that bond through Kozy Bail Bonds and remains free. He is scheduled for a March 4 preliminary hearing before District Judge Kyle Higgs Tarrant.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Former Florida State University Finance Professor Sentenced to Prison for Embezzlement

Today, former Florida State University (FSU) Assistant Professor of Finance, James S. Doran PhD, 40, of Boulder, Colorado, was sentenced to 13 months in prison and a $15,000 fine for embezzlement concerning a program receiving federal funds.  The sentence was announced by Christopher P. Canova, Acting United States Attorney for the Northern District of Florida.
At trial, the government presented evidence that, between May 2010 and March 2011, Doran, while employed at FSU’s College of Business, intentionally embezzled money from the Student Investment Fund Inc. (SIF).  The SIF was developed to give business students practice in conducting stock purchases and managing an investment portfolio.  Doran, who oversaw the SIF as a faculty advisor, made a series of transfers totaling more than $650,000 from the SIF to his own personal investment account.  He also used $10,000 in SIF monies to pay for a performance evaluation of his personal investment fund.  Doran returned the monies after an audit disclosed his illegal transfers.  Doran was convicted on November 19, 2015.
The case was investigated by the United States Secret Service, the FSU Police Department, and the FSU Office of Inspector General Services.  It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Gary K. Milligan and Jason R. Coody.
The United States Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Florida is one of 94 offices that serve as the nation’s principal litigators under the direction of the Attorney General.  The office strives to protect and serve the citizens of the Northern District of Florida through the ethical, vigorous, and impartial enforcement of the laws of the United States, to defend the national security, to improve the safety and quality of life in our communities through the protection of civil rights, and to protect the public funds and financial assets of the United States.  To access public court documents online, please visit the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida website.  For more information about the United States Attorney’s Office, Northern District of Florida, visit

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Lapeer High School softball coach faces embezzlement charges

A Lapeer High School softball coach faces embezzlement charges following a joint investigation by the Michigan Attorney General's Office and the Michigan Gaming Board.
Along with the softball coach, two Lapeer residents must answer to misdemeanor charitable gaming violations and a Lapeer district teacher has pled guilty to charitable gaming violations following the investigations.
The two year investigation focused on charity poker events held at Gloria's Poker Palace in Burton between 2010 and 2013, according to a news release from the Michigan Gaming Control Board.
Lapeer High School softball coach Mallory Jackson, Tamara Miller and Gerald Miller all pled not guilty in 67th District Court to crimes related to millionaire party charity events, according to the release. Jackson and the Millers are related.
Lapeer West Softball was an independent organization not affiliated with the schools that qualified for millionaire party event licenses.
In a related case, Lapeer Community Schools teacher Matthew Nowak, 38 of Attica, pled guilty Feb. 11 to two charitable gaming violations in 67th District Court.
"It's very disappointing when people in youth leadership roles are accused of illegal activities and diverting money associated with charitable fundraising," said Richard Kalm, executive director, Michigan Gaming Control Board in a statement. "Our neighbors support fundraising events because they expect their money to go to charity and not to be misled about how their money is spent.
"We will continue to enforce Michigan laws to protect the public and charities from unscrupulous and illegal behavior by persons involved in charitable gaming," Kalm said.
Here is a list of the charges:
Mallory Jackson, 28 of Davison:
  • One count of embezzling more than $200 but less than $1,000 from a non-profit or charitable organization, which is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine.
  • One count of diverting a portion of net millionaire party event proceeds to a purpose other than the charity's lawful purpose. This is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.
  • Two counts of aiding and abetting by sending a portion of net millionaire party proceeds to individuals for a purpose other than a charity's lawful purpose. Each count is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a $500 fine.
  • One count of conspiracy with other individuals to aid and abet. This is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a $500 fine.
  • Jackson was arraigned on Jan. 27 and was released on $15,000 personal bond.
  • A probable cause conference is scheduled for Feb. 25 in Judge Jennifer Manley's courtroom.
Tamara Miller, 48 of Lapeer, (former treasurer of Lapeer West softball):
  • Four counts of diverting a portion of millionaire party event net proceeds, which are misdemeanors punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.
  • Tamara was arraigned on Feb. 11 and was released on $20,000 personal bond.
  • A pre-trial conference is scheduled for March 10 in 67th District Court.
Gerald Miller, 49 of Lapeer, (former vice president of Lapeer West softball):
  • Two counts of diverting a portion of millionaire party event net proceeds, which are misdemeanors punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.
  • Gerald was arraigned Feb. 11 and was on $10,000 personal bond.
  • A pre-trial conference is scheduled for March 10 in 67th District Court.
Matthew Nowak, 38 of Attica, (biology and life sciences teacher at Lapeer's Zemmer Middle School and a wrestling coach at Lapeer High School), pled guilty and paid $1,450 in fines and court costs:
  • Illegal distribution of a portion of millionaire party charitable proceeds to Lapeer West Softball Club and Renegades Baseball Team/Michael McCollum, 51 of Burton.
  • Aiding or abetting an unqualified person who did not belong to the Lapeer Wrestling Club to manage the organization's millionaire party at Gloria's Poker Palace in October 2012.
Jackson allegedly embezzled money from the Lapeer West Softball Club between September 2012 and October 2013 while she was the club's president, according to the release. Investigators allege Jackson gave a portion of the money raised at Lapeer West Softball Club millionaire party events to McCollum, which violates state law.
McCollum was arraigned recently in 67th District Court on multiple felony charges of larceny by false pretenses and a felony embezzlement charge related to charity poker events at Gloria's Poker Palace in Burton between 2010 and 2013, according to the release.
During the time Tamara served as treasurer for the Lapeer West Softball Club between October 2010 and July 2011, she allegedly diverted money raised on the club's behalf to Addix -- a custom sports apparel provider -- Oxford  Wrestling and Michigan USA Wrestling, which violates state law, according to the release.
Gerald allegedly diverted money raised on behalf of the Lapeer West Softball club to the Renegades Baseball Team and/or McCollum and Lapeer West Wrestling Club's chairperson, during the time period that he served as its vice presidents between December 2010 and March 2011, violating state law, according to the release.
Gloria's Poker Palace, along with Flint-area poker rooms Pocket Aces and Lucky's were among several Michigan locations where charitable gaming was discontinued.
Since 2014, six people associated with Gloria's, Pocket Aces and Lucky's have pled guilty to gaming crimes following investigations by the Michigan Attorney General's Office and the MGCB, according to the release.
Investigations into charitable gaming activities are ongoing

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Midland man pays $10,000 toward restitution in preschool embezzlement case

A Midland man who admitted he embezzled money from a Midland preschool paid $10,000 toward restitution at his sentencing last week.
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 County Circuit Court Judge Stephen P. Carras sentenced Weideman to a one year sentence delay, as well as $1,750 fines and costs, plus one year of probation.
Weideman entered a guilty plea in the case in exchange for a deal calling for a misdemeanor charge of embezzlement between $200 and $1,000 to be entered into Weideman’s record if he successfully completes the sentence delay.
Weidman’s $10,000 payment toward restitution also was part of the plea deal. The total amount of restitution has yet to be set.
The charges were filed after Midland Police were contacted in May.
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 being represented by Midland attorney Courtney L. Thom.

Friday, February 12, 2016

SC teacher accused of stealing donations meant for American Cancer Society

A longtime teacher is accused of stealing money raised by students and staff meant for the American Cancer Society, according to the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office.
Yvonne Johnson Oswald, 48, is charged with embezzlement of public funds.
Oswald was a teacher for more than 20 years and worked at A.R. Rucker Middle School for the Lancaster County School District. School district leaders said students and staff were able to pay $2 to participate in “dress down” days rather than wearing school uniforms.
The money was to be deposited and donated to the American Cancer Society by Oswald, the report states.
An employee reported the possible embezzlement to the school district in January 2016.
The school district conducted an internal investigation and turned findings over to the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office. Funds were noted to be missing from collections in September 2015 and November 2015, according to the school district.
Oswald was questioned by school leaders and the conversation was recorded.
The veteran teacher admitted that she had not deposited an estimated $500 from September and had instead used the money for personal purposes, according to the sheriff’s report. Oswald told deputies that $600 from November 2015 collections was “locked up in her room,” the report states.
That money was recovered, Lancaster County School leaders said. Oswald resigned from her position within the school district and was arrested and charged last week.
According to the sheriff’s report, Oswald had been instructed to govern the fundraiser money “for the past few years.”
For parents like Cassie Bright, the allegations against the teacher are personal.
“My father had cancer. Half of my family has died of cancer, and that just makes me really really upset, that is wrong,” Bright said.
Bryan Vaughn with Lancaster County Schools said school staffers placed the former employee on paid leave while they conducted an internal investigation.
“I think there’s a lot of concern, just from a moral standpoint,” Vaughn said. “Anytime public dollars are taken I think there’s a trust issue.”
Vaughn said it was possible the district could recover the $500 through restitution, depending on the outcome of the criminal court case.
According to Vaughn, Oswald was cooperative during the investigation.
“Once she was confronted, she was cooperative with the investigation and she took responsibility for her actions,” Vaughn said.
WBTV went to Oswald’s listed address for a comment, but no one came to the door.
Neighbors said the allegations are against her character.
“I was surprised, and I hate it for her, and I know she didn’t really mean to do anything wrong,” said neighbor Glenn Sowers.
Bright said giving money to allow her child to challenge the dress code occasionally hit her pocket book, but she thought the money was going towards a good cause.
“We work hard for that money, and for us to give our kids $2, it might not seem like it’s a lot, but sometimes it is,” said Bright.

Secured collection systems protect parish funds, integrity against theft

Some, but not all, dioceses and parishes are taking a new look at securing offertory collections, and that's a good thing, say critics of how the church has handled money.
"The bishops are finally recognizing that embezzlement doesn't help their moral standing," Charles Zech, the director of the Center for Church Management and Business Ethics at Villanova University, told NCR.

Zech noted that diocesan-wide procedures are in many ways answering long-time critics, such as Michael W. Ryan, who have long argued that collection procedures in parishes needed tightening. "He's been crying out in the desert," said Zech.

Such cries are being heard in dioceses and archdioceses as diverse and geographically spread as Boston, Miami and San Bernardino, Calif. Videos on archdiocesan websites for Boston and Miami offer how-tos on best practices for parish collections to assure that cash dropped into the collection baskets each Sunday actually gets to the parish bank account. An estimated 40 percent of Sunday collections comes from cash donations, seen as particularly vulnerable to pilfering.

These moves come as the church in the United States, after reeling from publicity around sex abuse cases, has been hit with bad press about theft. Archdiocesan offices in New York and Philadelphia have been hit with large embezzlement cases in recent years, and New York tabloid readers were jarred with accusations in December that a pastor in the Bronx had used parish donations for sexual encounters and drugs. Pastors and ushers have also been accused of embezzling funds in Connecticut, Michigan and Florida.

A secured collection system, said Zech, involves three counters who are unrelated. It means mixing up the collectors, so the same people are not always collecting at the same Masses. It also means at least two people delivering the final collection to the bank each week.

"It involves a separation of duties so that no one person does everything," said Zech.

Sometimes implementing secured offertories results in pushback from parish collectors and ushers, who wonder if their integrity is being questioned.

The answer, said Zech, is to assure all involved that a secured system "is for your protection and my protection" not only of the parish funds but also of the integrity of honest ushers, collectors and pastors.

"The problem has been that we have been too trusting, so we don't put in the controls common in the business world," he said.

A new secured parish collection system being implemented in the Boston Archdiocese is focused on securing collections "from the basket to the safe," Maureen Creedon, director of finance for the archdiocese, told NCR.

The new process involves labeling and locking secured standardized bags provided by the archdiocese that account for all offertory funds. "It's a clear donations process that protects everyone," said Joseph McEnness, director of risk management for the archdiocese.

The process, endorsed by Cardinal Sean O'Malley, is not mandated, but the half of the archdiocese's 289 parishes not yet on board are being encouraged to join. Since the process was implemented a year ago as a pilot project, there has been no noticeable impact on the amount of monies collected, said McEnness.

Fr. Joseph Raeke, pastor of three collaborative parishes in Brockton, Mass., was among the first to implement enhanced parish collection security measures in the Boston Archdiocese last summer at St. Edith Stein Church.

The program has been a success, according to the pastor.

"People who are making the contributions feel greater confidence that what they give is valued," he said.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Ex-Parish Manager at Troy Church Sentenced

Former St. Thomas More Catholic Church manager Janice Vershuren was sentenced to probation for a year Monday for charges relating to the embezzlement of hundreds of thousands of dollars from the church.

Vershuren, who pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges in October, kept her divorced husband on the parish-paid health and dental insurance at a cost of $26,000. During her sentencing in U.S. District Court, she was ordered to repay the premiums, as well as pay $5,500 to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, the Associated Press reports.

In her plea, she avoided more serious charges in the scheme to hide more than $500,000 from the church when she accepted the plea agreement. In it, she admitted she had kept her ex-husband on health and dental insurance plans.

Vershuren and the Rev. Edward Belczak, the parish priest, were indicted in April 2014 on charges they stole nearly $500,000 from the church and the Archdiocese of Detroit, and stealing another $109,570 from the church to pay the closing costs on a plush condominium in Florida that Vershuren sold to Belczak.

Belczak, serving 27 months in prison for his part in the scandal.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Suspect in $45K church embezzlement appears in court

A woman accused to stealing $45,000 from a Catholic church entered not guilty pleas in court Tuesday.
Stacy Bowling, 40, of Dayton, was indicted last month in Montgomery County for grand theft for stealing money from her employer, St. Albert the Great Catholic Church in Kettering.
Bowling was arraigned in court on Tuesday and was released on her own recognizance.
Between July 2014 and October 2015, Bowling allegedly stole approximately $45,000 from the church.
Bowling was employed by the church as the cafeteria manager and was in charge of that business account. She reportedly wrote checks and made debit card purchases from the church’s cafeteria account for her personal use.
If convicted, Bowling could face up to 18 months in prison.

Martinsburg man sentenced in college embezzlement case

A Martinsburg man who police said admitted to embezzling from Valley College to pay restitution for a previous embezzlement conviction was sentenced after pleading guilty to one felony count of embezzlement in Berkeley County Circuit Court.
Bradley Scott Martin, 31, was sentenced by 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge John C. Yoder to not less than one or more than 10 years in prison.
Martin also was ordered to pay more than $25,000 in restitution, with $20,842 to be paid to Valley College and $4,442 to Manpower in Martinsburg, Berkeley County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Gregory K. Jones said.
The remaining 139 counts of forgery, uttering and fraudulent scheme in Martin's October 2015 indictment were dismissed as part of a binding plea agreement.
Authorities have alleged that Martin was working as a contract employee for the college when he altered multiple time slips, which resulted in him being overpaid by Manpower, court records said.
Police also alleged that Martin forged 60 checks identified by Valley College and uttered them, records said.
Police said Martin admitted to committing the embezzlement, indicating he was responsible for managing the accounts-payable accounts at Valley College, and had access to write the checks against the school's BB&T Bank account, records said.
The alleged offenses occurred between October 2012 and April 2013, court records said.
When questioned about the allegations, West Virginia State Police Sgt. J.M. Walker said Martin "stated he used the proceeds from the fraud to pay restitution to the court for a previous embezzlement conviction."

Before Thursday's hearing, Martin had been incarcerated due to a parole revocation connected to the previous embezzlement conviction.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Former PTA treasurer charged with embezzlement

A former parent volunteer at Paul Munro Elementary School has been arrested and charged with six counts of embezzlement.
Jennifer Marie Musick, 40, turned herself in to the Lynchburg Police Department on Thursday. The charges relate to the theft of more than $31,000 from the Paul Munro Elementary School’s Parent Teacher Association. She served as treasurer of the PTA during the 2014-15 school year.
She no longer is PTA treasurer nor is she a member of the PTA at Paul Munro, according to another PTA board member.
According to the Blue Ridge Regional Jail online records, Musick is accused of embezzling from the PTA fund in August 2012, twice in 2013 and once more in 2014.
“PTA and PTO funds are not controlled or maintained by any Lynchburg City Schools personnel. These funds are managed solely by volunteers of the schools. Additionally, LCS does not have authority over PTA or PTO leadership,” Lynchburg City Schools spokeswoman Cindy Babb said in a news release Thursday.
Current Paul Munro Elementary School PTA President Christie Hooper said the PTA became aware of possible financial issues in the fall of 2015, when Virginia PTA contacted the school about unpaid membership dues. According to Hooper, Virginia PTA said it had not received dues for the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years.
“That’s what alarmed us,” Hooper said.
It led members to look more closely at the PTA's two bank accounts. One account funds some classroom expenses for teachers and things like student field trips, plays and reading incentives. A second account, created to maintain funds for a new playground for the school’s 50th anniversary holds special project funds.
Hooper said the PTA obtained access to the accounts in the fall and someone had “basically dried our bank accounts clean.”
Hooper said although the money has not been recovered, the financial loses will not impact teachers or students. The PTA has held several successful fundraisers this year.
“Paul Munro has an active PTA with strong parental involvement. Paul Munro and LCS value these important partnerships with parents and the community, and we will continue to encourage parental involvement in our schools; however, this recent unfortunate incident of misconduct serves as a reminder that all community organizations must engage in best practices and remain accountable to one another so that funds are used appropriately.”
Hooper said the experience has made the new PTA stronger than ever, and inspired many to rally behind the school. It has also led the PTA to change its policies and procedures putting in place numerous precautions.
The PTA has rewritten its bylaws, appointed both a treasurer and treasurer-elect who jointly are responsible for finances, requires no less than three signatures on every check, implemented a nepotism policy and requires that all cash handled at fundraisers be counted by all members.

“Now we have more than just one pair of eyes doing it,” Hooper said.