Saturday, December 31, 2016

Kan. school district awarded $490K from estate after employee embezzlement

 A Kansas school district has recovered nearly half a million dollars from the estate of a former technology director who’s believed to have embezzled district money before killing himself.
The Wichita Eagle reports a federal judge has awarded the Maize school district roughly $490,000 from Ramon Mosate’s estate. Mosate worked for the district from 1997 until he was fired in February 2015, three months after the FBI executed a search warrant at district headquarters.
An FBI affidavit chronicled years of money transfers and cash payments between Mosate and vendors who were paid more than $4 million for technology-related services.
Maize superintendent Chad Higgins told school employees the award didn’t cover all of what the district lost, but it was positive news at a time of uncertainty on school funding.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Church considering options in wake of alleged embezzlement

  First came the Great Recession, then fewer people started showing up for regular Sunday services.

What followed in the wake is what some members of St. Paul Lutheran Church & School have likened to a physical injury -- a wound, of sorts. The church's beloved school secretary, Lynn M. Warner, is accused of stealing more than $300,000 from school coffers in a span of about nine years.

With fewer dollars in the collection baskets, and the loss of those reportedly pilfered funds, church leaders and parishioners now are facing a tough decision: What to do with their grade school as the money runs out.

"The only reason we're still standing is we had a $1.1 million foundation. We borrowed against that," the Rev. David Thies said. "We're in the process, out of necessity, to look at how do we re-birth the school."

Because something has to change, he said. No decisions have been made, but various suggestions are being considered.

While some grade levels are combined for certain subjects, like social sciences and history, they might have to combine grades further and employ one-quarter of the staff. Or they might opt to switch to a different curriculum that is better-suited to combined grade-level learning, he said, such as done by some families who home-school their children.

Decisions also might need to be made about whether St. Paul's will remain a two-church-building congregation. The church's hub is at 600 N. Horsman St. and the northwest site is at 4881 Kilburn Ave.

Currently, there are no plans to close the school, said Thies, who teaches Latin, but "it was contemplated that the school may have to end."

"I am hopeful that we can have school next year. However, because of what has happened to us in the removal of these funds, it will look vastly different in nature than we have had, or may be impossible all together without some other rescue stepping forth," he said.

Legal troubles

A Winnebago County grand jury in September indicted Warner, 34, of the 1400 block of Harlem Boulevard in Rockford, in connection with the thefts from the parochial school. She's facing four counts of theft and remains free after posting $2,500 bail.

Warner pleaded not guilty to the felony charges during her arraignment Thursday in the 17th Judicial Circuit Court.

Multiple messages have been left for Warner, and for each of her two Chicago-based defense attorneys, Louis J. Meyer and Daniel Kiss, but none have returned calls seeking comment.

Warner is due back in court in the criminal case Tuesday.

St. Paul's sued Warner in May, alleging she stole money from its silent auction account, school tuition and band tuition accounts, registration account, band materials account and faculty fund, according to the lawsuit. Church leaders contend that Warner created two sets of records to prevent them from discovering what was occurring and that some of these were password protected.

Her next court date for the church's lawsuit is Jan. 25.

Declining enrollment

Currently, 72 children attend the church's school spanning preschool through eighth grades, Thies said. The west side school is racially diverse - about 50-50 black and white.

Enrollment figures once were much heftier. In the 1950s and 1960s, 400 children attended the school, at 811 Locust St. Enrollment took a hit in the 1970s and has struggled ever since, except for a couple of years when tuition was reduced.

Thies, a former lawyer who grew up in Alabama, said "2008 hit and the whole model went out the window for churches and everybody's been in massive decline since." The situation was "just exacerbated for St. Paul's" by the theft of school funds, he said.

"If we weren't so blessed in the prior years (with the $1.1 million foundation), we would have been wiped out," he said.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Church treasurer accused of embezzlement

A long time church treasurer is accused of embezzling tens of thousands of dollars.
69 year old, Carol Jean Padgett is charged with seven counts of theft after reportedly stealing money during her term as the treasurer. The Unity Lutheran Church of Des Moines was about to close its door permanently after losing up to $70,000. An anonymous donor made a contribution to keep the church running.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Wife of Kingsport Pastor accused of stealing over $10,000 from church youth group

The wife of a Kingsport pastor, who is accused of stealing more than $60,000 from his church, is now facing charges for stealing from the church’s youth group.
A Sullivan County Grand Jury indicted Sharon Holder with theft over $10,000.
Kingsport police say she stole more than $10,000 dollars from Victory Apostolic Church’s youth group account.
This stems from a 2015 investigation where police charged her husband and pastor of the church, Boyd Holder, with theft over $60,000 and money laundering.
Kingsport Police Department Public Information Officer, Tom Patton, says the investigation began after members of the church asked law enforcement to look into their funds.
“There was some indication early on that she may have been involved. Cases like this involving embezzlement of lots and lots of monies from multiple accounts often require extensive investigation,” he said.
Boyd Holder’s trial is scheduled to begin on March 29, 2017.
Sharon Holder’s next court appearance is scheduled for December 2. She is out of jail on a $6,500 bond.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Pastor Pleads Guilty To Wire Fraud For Stealing Funds From Huntersville Area Church And Affiliated School

Wade Malloy, 62, of Stanley, N.C., and former pastor of a Huntersville area church, appeared in court today and pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud, for stealing money from the church and its affiliated parochial school, announced Jill Westmoreland Rose, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.  
U.S. Attorney Rose is joined in making today’s announcement by John A. Strong, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Charlotte Division, and Chief Cleveland L. Spruill of the Huntersville Police Department.
According to filed court documents and today’s plea hearing, from about 2000 to about August 2014, Malloy conspired with Wayne C. Parker, Jr. (Parker) to execute a scheme to defraud Malloy’s employer, a church (Church) and its affiliated parochial school (School), both located in Huntersville, of between $500,000 and $1,000,000, by embezzling Church and School bank funds to pay for Malloy’s personal expenses.  
According to court records, Malloy and others founded the Church in 1991. Malloy became the Church’s first pastor and served in that capacity until 2014.  Among other responsibilities as pastor, Malloy was responsible for overseeing the operation and finances of the Church.  Court records show that the School was founded in 1994 by Malloy and other members of the Church.  Upon Malloy’s recommendation, the Church hired Parker as Headmaster and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of the School in 1996.  As CFO, Parker had control over the School’s and Church’s finances and bank accounts.
According to court records, beginning in 2000 and until 2014, Malloy, with Parker’s help, began embezzling School and Church bank funds.  Court records indicate that Malloy had Parker issue additional paychecks to Malloy above and beyond what he was entitled to by the terms of his employment.  As the scheme progressed overtime, in addition to the extra salary checks, Malloy had Parker used Church and School funds to pay for Malloy’s personal expenses that included, among other things, college tuition, medical bills, cars, and credit card bills. 
Malloy entered his guilty plea before U.S. Magistrate Judge David S. Cayer.  He was released on bond after the hearing.  The penalty for the wire fraud charge carries a maximum prison term of five years and a $250,000 fine.  As part of his plea agreement, Malloy has agreed to pay restitution, the amount of which will be determined by the Court at sentencing.  A sentencing date has not been set yet.
Parker was sentenced on November 30, 2016, to 60 months in prison for his role in the embezzlement scheme.  He was also ordered to serve three years under court supervision upon completion of his prison term and to pay $6,606,463 as restitution.
The investigation was led by the FBI and the Huntersville Police Department.  Assistant United States Attorney Kevin Zolot, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte, is prosecuting the case.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Audit prompts new controls for New Canaan student funds

New Canaan officials will be keeping a closer eye on funds for student activities after last year’s audit revealed problems in the bookkeeping system.
Significant deficiencies in the student activity fund last year were attributed to flaws in the bookkeeping system, prompting the town to hire an accounting firm to look into how they can improve their practices.
Most of the student activity funds are raised through dues, fees, fundraisers, admission tickets, gifts and donations. These funds are meant to benefit the students for whom the funds were collected — things like field trips and end of school and season celebrations.

During the meeting, Keating and Joseph Centofanti of CohnReznick in Stamford presented the board with several improvements to make sure the town is using the best possible policies to protect student funds.Currently, most of the $422,389 is allocated to high school activities, though the fund is for all schools in the district, said Dr. Jo-Ann Keating, the district’s director of finance and operations at a Dec. 5 Board of Educationmeeting.
“Implementing best practices involves shared accountability for student activity funds,” Keating said. “The buck stops with us. We have to make sure good systems are in place and that they’re followed.”
Centofanti, who has worked with New Canaan before, made several recommendations to the board after interviewing staff on current student activity fund procedures. Centofanti put together a new policy and procedure to better process transactions.
One of the major recommendations included monitoring cash transactions, which Centofanti said are the highest risk area and often make up the majority of sports tickets purchases. Centofanti suggested using cash receipts to help keep a closer eye on cash flow.
Additional suggested best practices included shared accountability between business and school administration, more internal controls, system security and maintenance, and periodic reporting on funds to advisers.
Board Chairman Dionna Carson thanked the two for the clean audit and what she described as a “Herculean task” of cleaning things up from last year.
“As a high school parent, I’ve seen (the controls) on the other side,” she said. “So thank you.”
Moving forward, there will be a focus on promoting electronic transactions over cash when it comes to student activities funds, as well as discussion with high school administration on the ideal amount of leftover funds to keep in the account.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Embezzling suspected at Chandler mega-church

Chandler police arrested the chief financial officer of a Christian mega-church Thursday night on suspicion of embezzling more than $400,000 from the ministry.
Police searched the home of Brenda Su Carroll-Nester, who worked for the Cornerstone Christian Fellowship for five years, and found more than $250,000 in cash, travelers checks, money orders and gift cards.
Authorities also seized another $150,000 in cars, jewelry and electronic equipment in an ongoing investigation.
The dollar figures are expected to increase as the investigation moves forward, said Sgt. Rick Griner, in a press release.
Carroll-Nester, whose 23-year-old son was studying to become a pastor at the church, was booked on felony counts of fraudulent schemes, theft, and multiple counts of forgery.
“It saddens and disappoints us that this would happen,” said Michelle Rauscher, a spokeswoman for the church.
Rauscher said church officials started to notice accounting “irregularities” after they began implementing stricter financial guidelines nearly a year ago.
Carroll-Nester was confronted multiple times about the problems, according to an e-mail sent Friday afternoon to all church-goers from Linn Winters, the head pastor.
“When we notified police they were even more convinced that a crime had been committed,” Winters stated in the e-mail.
Investigators interviewed church employees and combed through financial records before serving a search warrant in her south Chandler home.
Of the cash found in the house, police found more than $100,000 stuffed inside a backpack. Police also seized two luxury cars — a 2006 BMW and 2006 Infinity — and the bank accounts of Carroll-Nester.
In addition, a safety deposit box at a Valley bank has also been seized by authorities.
Carroll-Nester was the top financial officer of the mega-church that regularly draws crowds of 4,500 to 6,500 people on any given Sunday, according to church officials.
Her son, whose name was not released, was part of an apprentice program that trains students to become pastors, Rauscher said.
Recently, the church has drawn attention for its edgy and risk-taking sermons and programs such as “Bringing Sexy Back.”
The six-week program, which drew thousands, focuses on adult sexuality in today’s culture. To advertise the service, officials posted signs outside the church featuring two pairs of feet sticking out from underneath a bed sheet.
Ron Keener, the editor of Church Executive, a business magazine for churches, said the incident underscores the need for churches to have better financial accounting.
He added that poor oversight is a widespread problem throughout the country among churches of all sizes.
“Too many times, churches are run like mom-and-pop stores when they need to be run like businesses,” he said. “It’s a fallen world and there are fallen people who will find ways to steal from churches.”
Keener, who is not familiar with the businesses practices of Cornerstone, said many churches would benefit from regular accounting audits — something that’s rarely done now.
He added that many of these types of thefts are swept under the rug and never reach the public.

The church program for Sunday will be changed to handle questions and inform members about the arrest, according to church officials.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Church Secretary Embezzles More Than $225,000 from Church

A former church secretary from Clovis will spend the next nine years in prison for embezzlement.
Earlier this year, Alice Phillips was charged with 136-counts of embezzlement but pleaded guilty to one count.
Phillips was accused of writing checks from multiple church accounts to herself.
In total, police say they found where Phillips took more than $227,000.
Documents show that the money was used for vacations, to start a retirement fund, and other untraceable spending.

'Tis the Season for Taxes


To support year-end planning success, Fifth Third Private Bank (FITB) recently released digital guides with strategies for individuals and families to consider in preparation for tax season. Among the strategies, Fifth Third experts recommend reducing taxable income, maximizing investment opportunities and strategically planning for charitable giving.
1.    Reduce taxable income
In order to offset taxable income, the most important strategy for investors to consider is tax-loss selling and taking advantage of underwater securities.
"Selling stocks, bonds or mutual funds that have lost value should be a priority this time of year," said Jeff Korzenik, chief investment strategist for Fifth Third. "When done in conjunction with rebalancing a portfolio, investors can minimize the tax consequences and impact."
Additionally, Korzenik suggests taking interest rates into account throughout the planning process. Gradual interest rate increases are being monitored for next year, which are typically associated with the latter half of an economic expansion. With this in mind, investors should expect lower returns from the bonds portion of a portfolio and be more selective in their equity investments as they plan for next year.
2.    Maximize investment opportunities
To wrap up 2016, Melissa Register, senior wealth planner for Fifth Third Private Bank, recommends being selective in investment decisions. By working with a wealth management advisor, you can ensure that your allocation aligns with your goals and time horizon for both your taxable and tax-deferred accounts. From this checkpoint, you can identify necessary adjustments.
"Investors can plan ahead by rebalancing portfolios and diversifying their investments before the close of the year," said Register. "There are significant growth opportunities for 2017 in alternative investments and selective international exposure."
3.    Plan for charitable giving during the holidays
When it comes to charitable giving, Glen Johnson, managing director of Mirador Family Wealth Advisors, suggests engaging family members in the decision-making process.
"More than half of charitable giving is done in one month of the entire year: December," said Johnson. "Holiday gatherings are an opportune time for families to set joint year-end goals and develop a strategy for allocating philanthropic donations in 2017."
Johnson also suggests using assets that have appreciated in value as gifts for charitable donations to avoid capital gains. "People often don't think about real estate, collectibles or art as potential gifts, which could ultimately fund a new program or service for a charity," said Johnson.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Woman charged with embezzlement

Erin Gibby, 39, of Ola was arrested in connection with the alleged embezzlement of funds from the Two Rivers School District, Yell County Sheriff Bill Gilkey announced on Tuesday.
Gibby surrendered herself with the assistance of her attorney to the Yell County Sheriff's Department, where she was served with felony arrest warrants, according to Chief Deputy John Foster

The YCSO was contacted by Two Rivers School Officials in October regarding potentially missing money.

Foster said the YCSO and investigators from the Arkansas Legislative Audit both proceeded with the investigation, which culminated in the arrest.
Foster said that Gibby, who had been the school's financial administrative assistant, was charged by Prosecuting Attorney Tom Tatum with Theft of Property greater than $5,000 but less than $25,000, a Class C felony. She was also charged with tampering with public record, a class D felony and abuse of office, a Class B misdemeanor. Gibby awaits appearance in Yell County Circuit Court.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Former church secretary gets nine years for embezzlement

A former church secretary was sentenced Wednesday afternoon for breaking the eighth commandment — thou shalt not steal — to a degree so great congregants fear she may have broken the church.
Alice Phillips, 47, was sentenced to nine years in the New Mexico Department of Corrections, with four years suspended, on one count of embezzlement by District Judge Fred Van Soelen.
Phillips was charged last December with 136 counts of embezzlement from St. James Episcopal Church, covering felony and misdemeanor levels and totaling $227,650.50. She will, after her five years in prison, be required to serve two years parole and four years supervised probation, plus make restitution to the church.
According to court documents, Phillips was initially confronted about the missing money by the church board in November 2015. She was responsible for paying the church’s bills, and got board members to sign blank checks in advance so she didn’t have to hunt down signatures to pay routine bills.
According to Clovis Police Det. Albert Sena’s affidavit, Phillips said she cashed a few checks to help escape some financial troubles at home, and had every intent to pay the money back. But Sena reported finding more than $80,000 deposited in bank accounts, evidence of frequent vacations and documentation to show beginnings of a retirement fund.
“The defendant acted, initially, as though she was going to come clean,” Chief Deputy District Attorney Brian Stover said. “It was only after Det. Sena painstakingly worked through all of the notes and all of the documents we finally found out all she had been taking.
“It wasn’t a one-time thing, but rather an ongoing siphoning of money from her employer over a good amount of time.”
Kathy Wright, senior warden for the church board, said the church had acquired those monies through years of small donations, and as a result of Phillips’ actions had to ask higher-ups for permission to do minor things like pay a power bill.
“These actions have devastated our congregation,” Wright said. “We have been under severe scrutiny from the Diocese.”
Ben Herrmann, Phillips’ attorney, asked the court for a nine-year sentence, with all nine years suspended for an opportunity at restitution. He noted Phillips had no prior criminal record, and detailed a plan where Phillips, relatives and friends would pool $4,300 per month. That amount would cover Phillips’ embezzled money within five years.
“I think Mrs. Phillips has always been willing to be responsible for what she has done,” Herrmann said. “Making the community whole again would be the primary purpose. I don’t think that sending her to the Department of Corrections furthers the interest in paying the money back.”
Krystal Watson, Phillips’ oldest daughter, told Van Soelen that Phillips frequently took the money to help other people. When Van Soelen asked Watson where she thought a church secretary got all of that money, Watson said she was living out of state and mistakenly believed she was the only beneficiary of parents in a good financial place.
“She had me, my brother, my sister and others asking for help,” Watson said. “She did what she could, thinking she would get that money back. Of course, nobody helped her, including myself.”
Also testifying were Phillips’ brother, who said he would give a few hundred dollars a month, and Phillips herself.
“I’m truly, truly sorry,” Phillips said through tears. “I know what I did was wrong, and I do want to make it right. I plea with you to give me that chance.”
After about 10 minutes in his chamber to review the case, Van Soelen said he saw no way to reduce the jail time beyond the state’s plea offer, because every time she cashed a check was an opportunity to stop, and she only stopped when she got caught. He added that whether she was using the money to buy things for herself or getting a good feeling about helping friends and family out of trouble, the motivation was pure greed.
Van Soelen said he didn’t know if Phillips herself had found herself in money problems, but that she, “absolutely put the church into debt by doing this, and they’re having a hard time getting out of it.”
Churches, he continued, accept a role to help the community’s less fortunate, so the embezzlement hurt those people and the community at large.
While he conceded Phillips had little chance to pay the restitution while incarcerated, Van Soelen had no way to ensure Phillips’ multi-person plan would be adequate.
“If those other people don’t send you the restitution,” Van Soelen said, “I can’t go after them. That’s why I don’t think this is a reasonable, reality-based plan.”
Phillips’ relatives declined comment after the trial, with Watson noting there wasn’t much else to be said.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Repeat embezzler sentenced in church theft

A woman with a history of theft will serve prison time in the embezzlement of more than $73,000 from a Portland church.
The Oregonian/OregonLive reports 63-year-old Christine Marie Culver has to repay money taken as part of her three-year prison sentence.
She said Friday during sentencing that she was sexually and emotionally abused as a child, and that she has low self-esteem.
Culver said she spent the church's money on herself and gifts for friends.
She previously spent 13 months in prison after being convicted on charges in the embezzlement of $225,000 from the city of Molalla, where she worked.
Prosecutor Ryan Lufkin said it's typically unusual for offenders to repeat these types of crimes.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Ex-Davidson County school PTO treasurer charged with embezzlement

The former treasurer of an elementary school PTO is charged with embezzlement.
Lynn Marie Johnson, 37, of 232 Prospectors Way, was charged Thursday with one count of embezzlement.
Johnson was the treasurer of the Davis-Townsend Elementary PTO during the 2015-16 school year, the Davidson County Sheriff's Office said. She is accused of using the PTO debit card to make personal purchases over just more than $1,000.
The sheriff's office began investigating Oct. 5, after the school PTO's newly-elected treasurer discovered several inappropriate charges that occurred the previous school year and reported them, the agency said.

Johnson was charged and released with bail set at $5,000.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Northborough-Southborough School Official Pleads Guilty To $380K Embezzlement

The former budget officer at a Massachusetts public school district has been sentenced to two years in jail for stealing more than $380,000 in school funds to feed his drug addiction.
Christopher Hoey, of Stow, was also sentenced to three years of probation this week after pleading guilty to larceny charges. A charge of embezzlement by a public official was dismissed as part of the plea agreement.
Prosecutors say the 35-year-old Hoey stole the money while working for the Northborough-Southborough School District.
Hoey told investigators that most of the money was used to support an addiction to Percocet and cocaine, with a small amount going to personal expenses.
School officials said the district was fully reimbursed by its insurance providers.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Some parishioners come to defense of Father Fritz

Some parishioners are coming to the defense of Father Richard Fritz after he was forced to resign last month following an investigation into possible embezzlement of church funds. A gambling problem is blamed by police for Fritz allegedly taking $213,000 from St. Barbara in Colon and St. Mary's in Bronson since 2010. They say hundreds of dollars a day were spent on lottery tickets.
Parishioner Ann Ratkowski says right now, she's choosing not to believe the accusations faced by Reverend Richard Fritz.
Gerald Barnes attends St. Barbara and says Father Fritz had been very good to his small community.
Reverend Fritz had been at the helm of the church in Bronson since 1990 and also was the pastor in Colon since 1996.
The Diocese of Kalamazoo says Fritz admitted writing checks to himself, but had said it was to cover things that included medical expenses, taking parishioners to dinner, and vehicle expenses.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

New trial date set for travel agent accused of embezzlement

Augustine Acheampong, a former travel agent accused of embezzling money from several Smithfield High School families, will stand trial on Feb. 27, according to an Isle of Wight County Circuit Court document.

Commonwealth's Attorney Georgette Phillips called to have Acheampong’s bond revoked in August, after his July arrest on charges of marijuana distribution, manufacturing a controlled substance and resisting arrest. However, the judge declined to revoke Acheampong’s bond, since he had not yet been convicted of the charges.

Acheampong is facing 65 charges of embezzlement, related to a planned Europe trip for Smithfield High School students that never happened, but for which he collected payments.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Former bookkeeper charged with embezzling from Botetourt church

Former bookkeeper charged with embezzling from Botetourt church

A former church bookkeeper has been charged with embezzling more than $10,000 from Cave Rock Baptist Church in Troutville.

Stephanie Everett, 42, was named in eight embezzlement indictments returned this week by a grand jury in Botetourt County Circuit Court.

The charges came after the sheriff’s office began an investigation in September of suspicious withdrawals, ATM transactions and debit card purchases “that are not typical of church business,” according to search warrants used in the case.

Some of the purchases were from a lingerie store, a sporting goods store, a cellphone provider, a nutritional and weight management company, department stores and “numerous transactions at different restaurants,” the warrants stated. 

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Former Savannah pastor pleads guilty in church embezzlement case

The Rev. Corey MeGill Brown on Thursday pleaded guilty in federal court in Brunswick to a single mail-fraud charge in the alleged embezzlement of more than $200,000 from Savannah’s Second African Baptist Church where he was senior pastor.

Brown, 47, told U.S. District Chief Judge Lisa Godbey Wood he was pleading guilty to the charge because he was, in fact, guilty.

The count he pleaded to involved a $540 check, dated June 11, 2013, and payable to Second African Baptist Church from Hattie Scott for her June tithe. Scott, who had moved to San Antonio, mailed the tithe through her son, David, according to evidence presented at the hearing.

Brown, who did not inform church officers of the account, largely “created, controlled and used” the account, evidence showed.

As part of Brown’s plea agreement with federal prosecutors, Assistant U.S. Attorney Charlie Bourne told Wood the government would dismiss the remaining charges in the 64-count indictment. He said prosecutors would not pursue a forfeiture count in the indictment, but that Brown would be held accountable for restitution to the victims for the full sum identified in the indictment.

Several victims appeared in court, but none chose to make any statements during the court session.

Wood accepted the guilty plea and allowed Brown to remain free on his $20,000 unsecured bond pending sentencing at an undetermined date.

Federal probation officers will prepare a presentencing investigation and a recommended sentencing range for Wood’s consideration. While Brown pleaded guilty to only one count, the total criminal activity cited in the indictment may be used in determining his sentencing guidelines.

Bourne indicated the government sentencing recommendation would not exceed 28 months as “appropriate” for the case. Also as part of the plea agreement, the government is suggesting a two-level reduction in the recommended sentencing guidelines because Brown was accepting responsibility for the criminal conduct.

Wood is not bound by either the probation nor the government’s recommendation.

Brown, appearing in court with his attorney Tom Withers, told Wood he had been a pastor at Second African for 16 years. His comments were limited to responses to Wood’s questions.

Brown earlier pleaded not guilty to charges in a second indictment that added 16 counts of money laundering to an earlier indictment for mail and wire fraud.

The change of plea to guilty came just weeks before Brown was scheduled for a jury trial on Dec. 13 before Wood in Savannah.

Bourne said the scheme involved an account that Brown opened at SunTrust Bank in 2005 under the name of “Second African Baptist Church, Roman 12 Ministries” where his was the sole signature.

That account was used to deposit tithes and offerings from church members, many of whom were shut-ins or ill.

Another victim identified in court, “Coach” Floyd Morris, made monthly tithes and offerings in excess of $1,200, which Brown would go by and pick up before depositing them into the Romans 12 account, evidence showed.

Brown would then use that fund for personal items or expenses at Savannah restaurants or businesses. In several instances he deposited some of the funds into his personal accounts or used an ATM to withdraw the money, evidence showed.

Savannah-Chatham police officer Kenneth Whitcomb, who was working with an FBI task force, said a church trustee, armed with documents, “knocked on the door” at the FBI office and tipped off the two-year-long probe.

The indictment, filed in court on May 3, charges that he opened an account in March 2005, without informing church leaders.

Brown would then write checks to himself using the account and spend the funds on personal items, according to the indictment. Purchases listed in the indictment were made from retailers such as Victoria’s Secret, On Time Fashions and the Saddleback Leather Company.

Further, the indictment charges he concealed his activities from church elders, trustees or board members.

Brown had served as a chaplain for the Savannah-Chatham police department from 2010 through 2014, and at one time had an office in the department’s Habersham Street headquarters as the coordinator of that program.

His role as a chaplain ended immediately after the department became aware of the investigation in December 2014, according to police officials in a statement they released.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Iredell man sentenced in $9 million embezzlement from Christian school

A Mooresville man will spend five years in a federal prison for taking $9 million from a Huntersville school and its affiliated church for his own personal use.

Wayne C. Parker Jr., 57, was found guilty this week of embezzlement by U.S. District Court Judge Max O. Cogburn Jr., according to a press release from the office of Jill Westmoreland Rose, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.

Parker was sentenced to 60 months in prison, along with three months of supervised probation.

Parker must also pay $6 million in restitution in addition to the $3 million he’s already paid back, the release said.

For about 14 years, Parker took the money from bank funds at the church and school, which has been identified in past media reports as Southlake Christian Academy.

Parker used the money for personal bills, a boat, gold and silver coins and a $1.2 million lake house.

To pay for the house, Parker made all of the employees take a 5 percent pay cut, which he claimed was due to the economy, the release said.

Parker opened about 29 checking accounts, used six credit cards, took out seven loans and created nine limited liability companies to try and hide his scheme. He also made up a false, fictitious report from an accounting firm to show the school had been audited and used an unqualified letter to indicate it had a clean financial bill of health.

To further hide his crime after a church leader became suspicious and called for an independent audit, Parker destroyed school financial records and sold a house he built with the stolen money to one of his children, the release said.

The investigation was handled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Huntersville Police Department.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Court appearance today for ex-principal charged with embezzlement

The former principal of a Minneapolis elementary school charged with embezzlement has a first court appearance today. Prosecutors say 55-year-old Anne DePerry used a school district credit card for more than 11 thousand dollars in personal purchases, plus another five thousand dollars that’s unaccounted for or suspicious. Authorities say DePerry told auditors she must have accidentally used the wrong credit card and offered to reimburse 17-hundred dollars — but investigators found additional charges and noted that DePerry would have had to use the school district’s system to approve the charges — something that would have been unlikely by mistake. DePerry was principal at Whittier International School and resigned in November 2015. 

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Former Priest Guilty of Embezzlement

The former priest at Vancouver, Washington's, St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church who stole thousands of dollars from the parish was sentenced Thursday to 40 days in jail and ordered to pay more than $35,000 in restitution.

Armando Sosa Perez, 56, pleaded guilty in September in Clark County Superior Court to three counts of first-degree theft. He stole an estimated $50,000 from the church at 8701 N.E. 119th St. between July 2011 and September 2014, court records show. However, the Archdiocese of Seattle settled on a restitution amount of $35,179.83, the prosecution said.

Deputy Prosecutor Aaron Bartlett said Perez skimmed money from baptismal fees and collection plates, and abused the parish's business debit and credit cards to make substantial personal purchases. The majority of the stolen money came from Hispanic parishioners, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Perez was assigned to the St. John parish in July 2003 but transferred in July 2014 to a parish in Renton, the affidavit states.

After he left, a bookkeeper for St. John raised concerns about Perez's financial practices. The Archdiocese of Seattle commissioned a forensic accountant to conduct the parish's annual audit and discovered the misuse of funds, court records said.

Perez reportedly didn't follow the protocol for collecting and securing offerings, specifically for the Spanish Mass, which is the parish's largest Mass. He used the parish's credit card to pay for meals and a trip to visit his father in California, despite receiving a stipend for meals. The bookkeeper said she suspected he also stole fees or donations for baptisms and weddings, because after he left that revenue significantly increased, according to court documents.

Tiffany Couch of Acuity Forensics estimated a loss of $50,050.13 as a result of debit and credit card misuse, skimming of fees, the loss of a parish vehicle and payments to Perez, court records said. The loss of the vehicle was determined to be a civil matter.

The parish's current priest, The Rev. Tom Belleque, told detectives that since he's lived at the rectory, there have been fliers delivered from casinos addressed to Perez, the affidavit states.

On Thursday, Bartlett argued that Perez should be sentenced to six months in jail, in addition to paying restitution. He based his argument on the length of time Perez stole from the church and his position of trust.

"The parishioners didn't know they were funding his pocketbooks," Bartlett said.

He argued that Perez shouldn't receive special treatment simply because his victims were forgiving and understanding.

"Forgiveness is great, but this isn't just about forgiveness. That's not what the justice systems sets out to do," Bartlett said.

Perez's attorney, Mark Muenster, asked that his client be granted the first-time offender sentencing option, which carries a penalty of zero to 90 days, rather than the standard range of three to nine months. He said he takes "violent disagreement" with the prosecution's argument of special treatment.

Muenster asked that Perez receive no jail time, arguing that incarceration would not be a deterrent for re-offending and would cost Clark County taxpayers about $15,000 for a six-month sentence.

"I apologize. I am sorry for my theft. That's what it was," Perez told the judge. He said it's taken him nearly two years, the length of the case, to realize what he had done. He said the real question isn't whether he stole the money but rather why.

Perez underwent four months of treatment, he said, and lost a lot because of his actions. He said he was told by the archbishop that he will never be a pastor again.

Judge Derek Vanderwood agreed that he thinks Perez makes a good candidate for the first-time offender option but said he didn't think no jail time would be appropriate. He settled on 40 days, a little less than the middle of the range. He denied the defense's request for community service instead.

Perez, who currently lives in Seattle, will surrender to the Clark County Jail on Nov. 17.

Perez became an ordained priest in 2002, and his first pastorship was at St. John. He was placed on administrative leave Dec. 5, 2014, according to a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Seattle.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Ex-Northside High School football coach faces embezzlement charges

A Roanoke County grand jury indicted former Northside High School football coach Burt Torrence on Friday on charges of embezzlement dating back to 2012, according to online court records.

Torrence, hired last summer as an assistant football coach at Heritage High School, was indicted on four counts of embezzlement of public funds, four counts of embezzlement and four counts of obtaining money by false pretenses, online records show. All of the charges are felonies.

The offense dates, according to online records, range from February 2012 to February 2015.

The commonwealth's attorney, Randy Leach, declined to comment Friday. A schools spokesman, Chuck Lionberger, said the district does not comment on personnel matters, pending legal matters or pending investigations.

Torrence, who coached at Northside for 10 years and won two state championships, resigned his coaching position earlier this year. In April, he told the Roanoke County School Board that he collected a stipend to coach outdoor track but didn't complete the work. He volunteered to repay the stipends. A police investigation began the next day.

In an interview in June, Torrence backed away from his April comments, saying he did not admit wrongdoing when he spoke to the school board. His attorney, Les Bowers, said in June that Torrence was innocent.

"He, in fact, is completely innocent and has maintained his innocence all along," Bowers said in June. "My understanding ... is he said, 'If anyone thinks I did anything wrong, I'll pay it back.' But he doesn't think that he did [anything wrong]. ... We're not talking about a big amount of money."

Reached late Friday afternoon, Bowers said he was just seeing the news and was not yet prepared to comment.

Torrence was hired by Lynchburg City Schools to teach history and serve as an assistant football coach at Heritage High School beginning in August. Spokeswoman Cindy Babb said Torrence has been placed on administrative leave.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Jury finds Albuquerque teacher guilty on embezzlement charges

After deliberating, a jury finds a middle school teacher facing embezzlement charges guilty on all counts.
He was charged with ten counts of fraud and embezzlement. Thursday in court, both sides presented closing arguments.
Kalinowski was a popular contractor, Santa Fe’s go-to guy for custom home building. But his award winning reputation soured after millions of dollars disappeared and construction projects were abandoned.
Some victims were cheated out of their life savings.
Despite the charges, Albuquerque Public Schools hired Kalinowski to teach at LBJ Middle School.
Kalinowski faces up to 82 years behind bars.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Man accused of embezzling thousands from school PTO account

A man has been arrested on suspicion of embezzling more than $10,000 from an elementary school's PTO account.
Terry Lawrence Cranfill, 47, of Lexington, was charged with one count of embezzlement in an incident involving Welcome Elementary School.
Davidson County deputies allege Cranfill embezzled the money during his tenure as PTO treasurer from 2012-2016. A new PTO president, who was installed in August, conducted an audit and found multiple suspicious transactions, deputies said.
Deputies said they received a report of possible embezzlement on August 18.
Cranfill was held under a $5,000 secured bond in the Davidson County Jail pending a Jan. 9 court appearance.