Thursday, October 5, 2017

Former instructor charged with embezzling $21K from MSU

A former instructor has been charged with embezzling more than $21,000 from Montana State University’s Western Transportation Institute.

On Tuesday, the Gallatin County Attorney’s Office charged Steven Jenkins with felony theft by embezzlement. An initial appearance has not been scheduled.

According to charging documents:

In May of 2016, an employee with WTI contacted the MSU Police Department about possible theft involving Jenkins.

The employee monitored enrollment and revenue for WTI, which is a department in the MSU College of Engineering that teaches classes on transportation.

The employee said she noticed that, dating back to July of 2014, WTI’s revenue was not as high as it should have been.

Jenkins had been instructing 17 or 18 private flagger training courses for WTI, which included more than 400 students, while working on MSU hours, using MSU vehicles for transportation and MSU funds for hotels, and printed kits for students using MSU printers and paper.

While his classes were registered into the WTI database, the school hadn’t received any payments or revenue through those classes and was not reimbursed for any of the other associated costs.

When the employee confronted Jenkins, she said he told her that he had made some errors with his bookkeeping and retroactively applied some of his vacation time to the time he had used to teach private classes. However, records showed that Jenkins had not applied any vacation time to the classes.

Jenkins was ultimately fired from the school.

Records showed that Jenkins teaching his private flagging courses with MSU resources while working on MSU time, all of which he did not reimburse the school for, resulted in $16,695 worth of losses for MSU.

Jenkins also improperly used grant money to purchase items, and MSU was required to pay back that grant money. He also didn’t return a number of items he was asked to after he was fired. Those losses to MSU totaled about $3,189.

And Jenkins spent $1,664 to make class materials for his students.

The total loss to MSU, police said, was $21,548.

During the investigation, Jenkins’ attorney told a detective that he would not speak with investigators. Jenkins later contacted the detective and said he was confused over how he could embezzle money when he didn’t directly handle money for MSU.

Former Harrison Central High bookkeeper embezzled thousands of dollars, officials say

A former bookkeeper at Harrison Central High School is accused of embezzling $5,890. It will cost her $14,687.36, according to a demand letter from the State Auditor’s Office.

The demand letter was hand-delivered to the home of 41-year-old Sherry Lynn Brewer home in Gulfport after a Harrison County grand jury indicted her on charges of embezzlement and alteration of records, documents show.

The amount of money she’s expected to pay includes interest and costs of the investigation, State Auditor Stacey Pickering said in a news release Wednesday.

She is accused of keeping money turned in by students and teachers and altering receipts and records to cover her tracks.

Brewer has not worked at the school since December 2012, said Trang Pham-Bui, public relations specialist for the Harrison County School District.

Brewer embezzled $5,890 between January 2010 and December 2012, according to the indictment.

During that same period, she allegedly made false entries and changed bookkeeping records at the high school to conceal discrepancies.

Brewer was booked at the Harrison County jail Friday and released on a $15,000 bond that covers both counts in the indictment.

Her charges carry maximum penalties of 30 years in prison.

Brewer is at least the second person on the Mississippi Coast arrested on charges from the State Auditor’s Office in two months.

Former Hancock County Justice Court Deputy Clerk Dana Sue Beaman was arrested July 28, accused of embezzling more than $110,000. Pickering’s office has issued a demand requiring Beaman pay $197,408.94, which Pickering said includes $110,827.50 in embezzled money plus nearly $87,000 in interest and recovery costs.

Beaman worked for the court from January 2008 until June 2011. She is free on an $80,000 bond pending court action on four counts of embezzlement.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Former Lincoln-Way D-210 superintendent pleads not guilty to federal fraud charges

A former Lincoln-Way District 210 superintendent pleaded not guilty to federal charges of fraud and embezzlement.

Lawrence Wyllie, 79, of Naperville, appeared in person with his attorneys at his arraignment Wednesday before U.S. District Judge Gary Feinerman in Chicago.

Wyllie largely was silent throughout the almost 10-minute arraignment. Afterward, he didn’t acknowledge questions from the media about the charges against him or the fallout of the school district he led for about 24 years before retiring in 2013.

While walking away from the courtroom, Wyllie’s attorney, Dan K. Webb of Winston & Strawn law firm, spoke on his behalf and said he and the rest of Wyllie’s defense team plan to go to trial over the charges.

In an email, Webb said they are convinced Wyllie is not guilty of the charges in the indictment.

“As a result, we will be going to trial and we expect that a jury will find Mr. Wyllie not guilty of these charges. We will not be making any further statements until the case goes to trial,” Webb said.

The next court date for Wyllie’s case is at 9:45 a.m. on Dec. 11.

When Wyllie appeared in court, he sat with his attorneys with his back to an audience of about 10 residents of the New Lenox-based district who came to watch his arraignment.

Marisa Barnas, one of the residents who attended, said that there needs to be more oversight of school boards. She said that parents need to be vigilant with school districts, and she hopes state lawmakers take note of what happened with District 210.

“The community will have its day in court. The community is being heard,” Barnas said.

Wyllie was superintendent of District 210 from 1989 to 2013. He led the district through immense growth as it grew to four high schools.

However, the district was put on the state’s financial watch list in 2015, and the board voted the same year to close one of its newest schools, Lincoln-Way North High School, to cut costs.

The decision stirred community outrage and led to an unsuccessful lawsuit by citizens group Lincoln-Way Area Taxpayers Unite Inc. to block North’s closing. Wyllie has not spoken publicly on the district’s fallout.

Wyllie has been highly respected in the community, and was once called an “absolute genius in school financing” by former Board President Ron Kokal.

However, federal prosecutors allege Wyllie caused the district to assume
$7 million in additional debt and misused at least $80,000 in district funds for his own personal benefit.

Wyllie misappropriated bond proceeds from a $225 million referendum that were used to construct North and West high schools in the late 2000s, as well as renovate Central and East schools, prosecutors alleged.

He also allegedly reclassified millions of dollars in district general operating expenses as purported bond expenses in the district’s general ledger and transferred millions of dollars from a U.S. Bank account to an Old Second Bank account the district used to pay general operating expenses.

“In this manner, [Wyllie] concealed the scheme and the true financial health of Lincoln-Way from the school board and the public by fraudulently appearing to lower the district’s net operating expenditures in its audited financial statements and its reported cost-per-pupil calculation,” prosecutors allege in the indictment.

Wyllie also allegedly used $50,000 in district funds, including bond funds, to build and operate Superdog – a dog obedience school at North high school – allegedly misappropriated $16,500 of district funds as a retirement stipend and allegedly misappropriated $14,000 of funds for unused vacation days.

He faces five counts of wire fraud and one count of embezzlement. Each count of wire fraud is punishable by up to 20 years in prison if he is convicted, while embezzlement carries a maximum sentence of 10 years if he is convicted.

Wyllie has a government pension of more than $321,000 a year. Dave Urbanek, spokesman for the Teachers’ Retirement System of the State of Illinois, has said that based on what TRS understands from the indictment, Wyllie could lose the pension if convicted, according to state law.

Northern Michigan high school coach accused of embezzlement

 A northern Michigan teacher and coach is under investigation after being accused of embezzling money.
Jason Leonard, who works at Kingsley High School is now on paid leave.
Kingsley Area Schools Superintendent Keith Smith wrote a letter to Leonard that states:

" are hereby placed on paid, non-disciplinary administrative leave pending an investigation into allegations you embezzled money from a youth sports organization."
Smith weighed in on this decision on Wednesday.
"Obviously its a serious situation or we wouldn't have placed the employee on leave," said Smith.
The letter also states:
" are not to enter school grounds or attend school events."
"Certainly he's innocent until proven guilty," said Smith. "He has the opportunity to participate in the investigation, but it's just a proven course of action that we have placed him on leave at this time."
Leonard teaches physical education and is the head coach of the high school football team.
Smith said he heard about the accusations a few days ago, but waited to confirm there was actually an investigation.
"The biggest thing for the community and for parents is to understand is that nothing occurred at Kingsley Area Schools and it does not involve the safety or welfare of any person or involve any finances that Kingsley Area Schools is responsible for," said Smith.
Leonard said he cant make any comments on the investigation, but he did emphasize they are "allegations."
"Just reserve judgment," said Smith "There is a process and the police are doing their investigation and hopefully it will come to a good resolution."
Smith said Michigan State Police are conducting the investigation.
Though the allegations are from a youth sports organization that is not associated with the school, Smith said its policy to place him on leave until its resolved.
This Friday the football team will be lead by a temporary head coach.

Previous audits of La Promesa questioned

For six years, La Promesa Early Learning Center’s former assistant business manager allegedly diverted nearly half a million dollars from the school into her personal bank account and deposited about $177,000 worth of questionable checks.

Like all state charter schools, La Promesa was audited annually by an independent firm – a process organized by the New Mexico Public Education Department.

But the alleged fraud and embezzlement were not detected until a vendor called the Office of the State Auditor’s confidential hotline in April to report a suspicious tax form.

So how did years of alleged financial misconduct get past the audits?

State Auditor Tim Keller told the Journal that the problems at La Promesa are part of a larger pattern.

“This isn’t just about one instance, the state needs to do a whole lot more supporting and overseeing of our education dollars to protect them from fraud, waste and abuse,” Keller said in an emailed statement.

“Over the last several years, we’ve urged the Public Education Department to step up oversight and provide the training and support our schools need to succeed. Unfortunately, by the time the Department stepped in at La Promesa, nearly $700,000 was already gone.”

PED spokeswoman Lida Alikhani countered that PED prioritizes “quality financial management within all New Mexico public schools.”

“That’s why we conduct annual audits and rely on independent external auditors – that are approved by Tim Keller’s office – to take the lead in these audits and provide us with the correct information to ensure proper financial management,” she said in a statement.

“During this administration the Public Education Department has worked diligently to improve financial performance within schools across New Mexico by stepping up oversight and providing better training and support.”

Keller said the annual audits are not as exhaustive as forensic audits, which are used to uncover fraud and require special expertise.

PED’s independent auditors look at a random sampling of a school’s financial documents – to find fraud, they would have to “get lucky” and review documents that reveal the misconduct, Keller said. For instance, if the auditors pulled out a document that looked suspicious, they could flag possible fraud.

Keller noted that annual audits have uncovered fraud in other districts.

Another potential obstacle: School staff could falsify documents to throw the auditors off track.

“(School) management is responsible for providing information to the auditors,” Keller said. “If management literally fakes information like false invoices, things of this nature, you would never know that unless you subpoenaed bank accounts and things like that. That’s what a forensic audit does.”

Keller said New Mexico has many high-performing, fiscally responsible charter schools, but PED needs to exercise more oversight throughout the year because annual audits can’t catch every problem.

“I think the best thing that would be helpful is if we had confidence in the accountability and transparency that PED was providing for our charter schools,” Keller said.

On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Education announced that PED will receive a $22 million federal grant for its charter school system.

Part of the funding will support efforts to improve the fiscal and organizational performance of the charter school sector, according to grant documents. For example:

• PED will use a portion of the grant funds to partner with national authorizing experts and state authorizers to strengthen the quality of charter authorizing practices, particularly financial oversight. The group will develop a set of charter authorizing standards by the end of 2018.

• The grant proposal includes funding to provide technical assistance and share best practices for financial and organizational management.

PED also has taken steps to boost oversight independent from the grant:

• PED has posted a job opening for a charter school data and financial analyst, a new position to enhance oversight.

• PED also increased school board training requirements this year. Specifically, new board members must now get two hours of training on financial oversight, within seven hours of total training, from PED before they can cast votes. Additionally, all board members must annually get three hours of financial training from a qualified provider approved by PED.

Under state law, about 2 percent of a school’s costs can be withheld to help cover the cost of oversight and other administrative support to the school.

That money, roughly $18.5 million over a recent five-year period, should be used effectively to oversee charter schools, Keller said. In August, Keller released a report calling for New Mexico do a better job of tracking these funds.

Alikhani described Keller as “a politician looking for cheap headlines.”

“One of our top priorities will always be to ensure that classroom spending is used properly and well-accounted for,” she said in a statement. “That’s why we provide regular training to districts and charters in developing their budgets – including in an annual training session each year as districts and charters prepare for the upcoming school year. And when districts and charters need help or guidance in managing their budgets effectively, we are always happy to assist in any way we can.”

Longtime disagreement

Keller and PED have sparred over charter school oversight for some time.

In March 2016, Keller sent then-Education Secretary Hanna Skandera a letter warning that “millions of dollars of funds are potentially at risk” and “schools are susceptible to fraud, waste and abuse.”

He noted that fiscal year 2015 audits uncovered 195 findings at the roughly 60 state charter schools, including “procurement violations, overspending, lack of sound accounting practices and payroll deficiencies.”

“Many of these findings were repeated from previous fiscal years and have continued to go unaddressed,” he said.

When the fiscal year 2016 PED audit was released, Keller wrote another letter to Skandera, stating that he remained concerned “regarding the adequacy of the Department’s support and oversight of charter schools.”

Keller noted that the overall number of audit findings had decreased to 178 in fiscal year 2016 and recognized that PED was addressing problems at a number of schools, but he said PED should do more to prevent issues.

Paul Aguilar, PED deputy secretary for finance and operations, told the Journal in a February 2017 interview that charter school management had improved during Skandera’s tenure.

“We are confident next year we will have fewer findings and still fewer the next year,” he said.

The revelations about La Promesa Early Learning Center have put charter school management back in the spotlight.

Earlier this month, Keller issued a report outlining extensive fiscal mismanagement at the K-8 state charter school on Albuquerque’s West Side.

According to Keller’s investigation, Julieanne Maestas, La Promesa’s former assistant business manager, diverted more than $475,000 from La Promesa into her personal bank account from June 2010 to July 2016. In addition, she deposited about $177,000 worth of checks that were payable to the former executive director – her mother, Albuquerque Public Schools board member Analee Maestas – as well as to her boyfriend, who was a school maintenance vendor.

The Office of the State Auditor discovered the nearly $700,000 in questionable transactions after a La Promesa vendor called the office’s confidential hotline saying a 1099 tax form he received from the school showed $7,128 in checks having been written to him and “endorsed by persons other than myself.”

The vendor said he’d never received the money and the work he supposedly did had never been performed.

Issues with La Promesa’s finances first arose in February 2016 after the school submitted a suspicious receipt to the New Mexico Public Education Department for reimbursement. Analee Maestas claimed the $342.40 invoice was for carpet cleaning at the school, but it appeared to have been written over, and the cleaning company reported that it actually worked on ducts at her home. She has denied any wrongdoing.

She has also said she did not know about the alleged $700,000 embezzlement and blamed her daughter’s substance abuse problems.

Analee and Julieanne Maestas left their positions at La Promesa in September 2016.

Last week, Attorney General Hector Balderas called for Analee Maestas to resign from the APS board.

Her attorney said she is innocent and has no plans to step down.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Audit raps Ridgefield School District on cash receipts

The Ridgefield School District was dinged by the Washington State Auditor’s Office for not having adequate cash receipting controls, according to a report from the office released Thursday.
The auditor’s office reviewed controls over cash handling and receipting at three schools in the district, as each building collects money for school lunches, field trips, class fees and after school activities.
The audit looked at the district from Sept. 1, 2013, through Aug. 31, 2016, and showed that a lack of internal controls and monitoring over transactions increased the risk that misappropriation or misuse of district resources could occur without being promptly detected, if detected at all. The district began strengthening controls during the 2015-2016 school year, and Superintendent Nathan McCann said it was an internal review from the district’s business services team that originally found some of the issues.
The district notified the auditor’s office on Jan. 4 about a potential loss of public funds, as required by state law. The auditor’s office conducted a test to determine whether a loss relating to fee revenues occurred at one of the district’s buildings, and found that a lack of supporting documentation for participation in fee-related activities and other inadequate controls complicated the testing.
According to the report, the auditor’s office developed an expectation of the maximum possible participation in fee-related activities at the school to come up with an estimate of expected revenue, and compared that to the actual amounts collected during the school years of 2015-2016, 2014-2015 and 2013-2014. The report identified variances where expected revenues exceeded collections by $1,731, $2,685 and $6,681, respectively.
The variances could be due to three possible reasons, according to the auditor’s office: misappropriation of collections, not billing students for fees or not collecting owed fees from students. The office was not able to determine the actual cause for the variances.
The report found that deposits were not made within limitations of the district’s daily deposit waiver and policy, and funds were held for up to five days past the limits of the waiver and policy at Union Ridge Elementary School and Ridgefield High School. At View Ridge Middle School, funds were not receipted in the system immediately upon collection, and it appeared the school collected funds and held them for up to a week before receipting them.
McCann said the district already started implementing some new policies to clean things up. When a district employee has to handle money, whether coming in to pay for things like a field trip or lunch, and then pass it off to another employee, both have to sign an agreement on how much is there. Money is also being locked up and deposited in a bank quicker.
“It’s not that it was some nefarious action,” McCann said. “Sometimes when collecting money, it would sit in the school if the person collecting knew more money was going to come in.”
The district now provides annual training to secretaries and those responsible for cash receipting to make sure they know about the district’s new requirements.
“It’s job one that we are transparent and 100 percent responsible and accurate with handling of all public monies,” McCann said. “We left the audit better positioned, which is what you always hope for.”
In a 2015 state auditor’s report, officials found the district didn’t have proper protocols in its financial statement preparation and its verification and reporting for a federal nutrition grant during the 2013-2014 school year.

In response, the district said additional monitoring, hiring and training had occurred and the problem was addressed.

Retired priest gets prison time, must repay church in embezzlement case

A retired priest was sentenced to at least five years in prison and must pay $127,000 in restitution after admitting to embezzling tens of thousands of dollars from an Owosso church.
The Rev. David Ernest Fisher was sentenced on Friday, Sept. 22, to five to 15-years in prison, must pay $127,000 in restitution and another $992 in fines and court costs, according to the Shiawassee County Clerk's Office.
Fisher, 70, previously pleaded guilty in July to a single charge of embezzlement before Shiawassee Circuit Court Judge Matthew Stewart.
Initially, Fisher was charged with seven counts of embezzlement, but prosecutors dropped six of charges when Fisher pleaded to a count of embezzling between $50,000 and $100,000, court records said.
Stewart previously revoked the pastor's $10,000 bond and remanded him to the Shiawassee County Jail, according to court records.

The audit revealed at least $450,000 was missing, Diocese officials previously said.
Fisher was arrested in Grand Forks, North Dakota, on suspicion of seven counts of embezzlement.
Initially, Fisher was fighting extradition from North Dakota, but later decided to waive the hearing, Michigan State Police Sgt. Mark Pendergraff said.
Church secretary Nancy DeFrenn also was arrested, police previously said. She is charged with a single count of embezzlement from a charitable organization of more than $1,000 but less than $20,000.
She pleaded guilty and is facing a delayed sentence. 

Harper county couple admits to embezzlement

A couple from Harper County has agreed to pay more than $132,000 to Bridgeport Missionary Baptist Church in Wichita, after admitting to embezzling $130,000 from the church.
David and Teresa Wilcox acted as secretary treasurer for the church “for many years,” according to a civil lawsuit filed Tuesday.
KWCH reports that on Thursday, the Wilcoxes agreed to pay the amount of money embezzled, attorney fees and costs, according to a legal document. The money must be paid by March 31, 2018.

According to police records, Church members voted and decided not to prosecute, preferring to handle the matter in civil court.
Corlin J. Pratt, attorney for the church, would not say why the church didn’t press criminal action, only that the matter had been “amicably resolved.”
Calls to David and Teresa Wilcox were not returned Friday.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Man pleads guilty to church embezzlement

A Raytown man pleaded guilty in federal court Tuesday to embezzling more than $86,000 from Nativity of Mary Church and school in Independence and Sacred Heart of Guadalupe Church in Kansas City, where he worked or volunteered. 

David Townley, 59, pleaded guilty in Kansas City federal court to one count each of wire fraud, mail fraud and tax evasion. He initially faced a 14-count indictment when charged in June 2016.

By pleading guilty, Townley admitted that he committed wire fraud while serving as business manager at Nativity from December 2006 to June 2013. His job gave him access to collections, donations and tuition payments, and according to court documents he skimmed tuition payments and frequent bank deposits separate from his and his wife's salary payments. 

During that same time period, Townley admitted, he stole more than $47,700 from Guadalupe, where he had been volunteering since 2002. He had been in charge of paying bills, making book entries and preparing tax returns. According to court documents is wrote unauthorized checks to himself and third parties. 

Friday, February 24, 2017

West Seneca Baseball leader sentenced to weekends in jail in embezzlement case

The president of the West Seneca Youth Baseball Association who stole close to $50,000 from the organization was sentenced Tuesday to spend weekends in jail for the next three months.
Kevin Chodkowski, 46, of West Seneca already has repaid $49,350 to the baseball club, the full amount that investigators could confirm that he stole. He pleaded guilty to attempted grand larceny after the restitution was paid.
Chodkowski took the money when he was head of the league, from 2011-2014, and lost much of it in local casinos, according to prosecutor Christopher Jurusik.
Chodkowski is now in counseling for his gambling addiction.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Embezzlement charges dropped against former Bruton High School bookkeeper

Six embezzlement charges have been dropped against Bruton High School’s former bookkeeper, who was accused of opening an unauthorized corporate credit account in the school’s name and making purchases with it over a span of four and a half years.
Prosecutors made a motion to drop the charges, including five felonies and a misdemeanor, against Charlene Flood-Liggon in York-Poquoson General District Court Tuesday afternoon.
Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Jacob Lambert asked to drop the charges because the “commonwealth had insufficient evidence” in the case. The charges were nolle prossed, meaning the prosecution will not pursue the charges unless more evidence comes to light.
Flood-Liggon, 54, of Newport News, worked as a bookkeeper at Bruton High School, handling cash and checks from “every aspect” of the school, including athletics, arts, field trips and more, according to court documents.
According to the criminal complaint, Bruton High School’s principal, Arletha Dockery, started to become suspicious of Flood-Liggon when she noticed several years’ worth of cash deposits missing from the high school’s bank account.
The police investigation, which started last June, tied Flood-Liggon to $4,731.56 in purchases on an Amazon Corporate Credit account, court documents state. The purchases spanned from Dec. 14, 2011 to April 5, 2016.
The School Board terminated her employment when the York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office opened the investigation, according to court documents.
When Dockery was cleaning out Flood-Liggon’s desk, she discovered an Amazon statement addressed to the former bookkeeper, documents state.
“While Dockery has only been principal at BHS for one year, she did not recall there being an authorized account for the school,” the criminal complaint states.
The account was created by Flood-Liggon “under the guise of purchasing for BHS,” and the bookkeeper opened a line of credit in the school’s name, the document states.
Dockery worked directly with Amazon to get account statements from as far back as December 2011, which were all addressed to Flood-Liggon using the school’s address at 185 E. Rochambeau Drive, according to the criminal complaint.
Flood-Liggon was charged on Aug. 3 with six counts of embezzlement, at the completion of the investigation.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Editorial: Embezzlement charge at Fayetteville private school exposes risks of voucher abuse

In the last three school years, North Carolina taxpayers have spent nearly $859,000 to educate elementary and high school students at Trinity School in Fayetteville. The school is the top recipient of the state’s private school vouchers.
Just last week Heath Vandevender, athletic director at the school and vice president of the Truth Outreach Center Inc., was arrested and accused of embezzling nearly $400,000 in employee tax withholdings at the private school.
Vandevender, who was released on $50,000 bond, continues to coach the boys’ basketball team and is still employed by the school, according to his father, Rev. Dennis Vandevender, the leader of Trinity Christian School.
So, the state’s biggest recipient of taxpayer-funded private school vouchers is accused of failing to pay nearly a half-million dollars in required state taxes.
In the three years since the state-funded vouchers have been offered, schools have quickly caught on to the “opportunity of vouchers. The number of schools participating has grown from 224 when launched to 349 this current school year.
And what kind of oversight does North Carolina have to make sure schools receiving vouchers are spending taxpayer money properly? Next to none.
For politicians who have made a mantra out of “running government like a business,” the opportunity school vouchers is a scheme that might delight Bernie Madoff.
While schools that receive more than $300,000 in vouchers are required by state law to conduct an audit, incredibly they don’t have to reveal or share the contents of that audit. And while the schools are required to administer a “nationally standardized test” to students annually, it is up to the schools to select the test – and there is no requirement they be the same, or similar to those used to measure the progress of students in North Carolina public schools.
This latest accusation of administrative and financial abuse at Trinity School is a stark reminder that our lawmakers should have reasonable rules and regulations in place to assure taxpayers that their money is being spent wisely.
Many of the schools have rules and policies imposing discrimination, excluding some students based on their faith, if their parents are gay, or whether students might be LGBT. These policies shouldn't be supported with state tax dollars.
Further, these schools that are so anxious to accept the state funding should be expected to show how the money was spent and whether the resulting education was worth it.
This school year the state’s paid out more than $12 million to support 5,432 students at 349 private schools. Within 10 years, the legislature has mandated the program grow to $13 .8 million for support of 32,105 students.
North Carolina taxpayers should know how their tax dollars are being spent – and not left to merely take the word of private school administrators or the students’ parents.
If the legislature is determined to continue funding the vouchers, it should impose appropriate accountability measures that assures taxpayers the money is paying for student education and that the schools are being operated in a financially responsible way. Additionally, the schools should demonstrate student progress through the same, or similar standardized tests that public schools are required to meet.
Failing to do this cheats North Carolina taxpayers and just as importantly, fails the students it is intended to help.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Ex-Baruch College basketball coach allegedly pocketed $600K from school

A former Baruch College basketball coach and athletic department official was busted Tuesday for pocketing more than half million dollars that should have gone to the college for rentals of its athletic facilities, authorities said.

Machli Joseph, who served as a women’s basketball coach for 10 years and an assistant athletics director from 2002 through 2016, was charged with one count of embezzlement, said Manhattan U. S. Attorney Preet Bharara and state Inspector General Catherine Leahy Scott.

Baruch rented out its gym to outside parties when it was not used by its athletic teams.

Officials said Joseph, 42, had sole control over the rentals and schedules.

On numerous occasions between 2010 and 2016, Joseph rented the gym to individuals and groups, with the money intended to go into Baruch’s coffers.

But Joseph directed the payments be made to bank accounts over which he had personal control, authorities said.

On several occasions, Joseph even directed that payment be made directly to himself or associates of his, according to the charges.

Many of these funds were ultimately spent on personal expenses, including renovations to Joseph’s home in Elizabeth, N.J., officials said.

All told, the scheme improperly diverted approximately $600,000, the criminal complaint said.

“Embezzling money from a public college is no game, and for allegedly taking criminal advantage of his control over Baruch’s basketball courts, Joseph will now face federal charges in a court of law,” Bharara said.

Joseph has been charged with one count of embezzlement and misapplication concerning a program receiving federal funds, which is how Bharara got involved.

The charge carries a maximum term of 10 years in prison.

Baruch College president Mitchell Wallerstein issued a statement saying the college was cooperating with authorities and had changed its practices:

“Today, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York arrested a former Baruch College employee, Machli Joseph, on charges of embezzlement. While employed at the College, it is alleged that he diverted approximately $600,000 in funds that were intended for the College. I am disturbed by this betrayal of trust, and will take further steps to improve oversight.

“We are disappointed that an employee would allegedly perpetrate a criminal theft of financial resources that are so critical to our students’ success. We support the U.S. Attorney’s intention to prosecute this case to the full extent allowed by law.

“Baruch has cooperated with the New York State Inspector General’s investigation that led to the charges from the U.S. Attorney’s office. We appreciate the diligence that led to the discovery of this malfeasance, and we intend to continue to offer our cooperation.

“Mr. Joseph was employed by the Baruch Athletics department between 2002 and 2016, first as Women’s Basketball Coach and later as Assistant Athletics Director. Beginning in 2015, Baruch started a significant reorganization of the Athletics department to improve its monitoring, control and rules of enforcement. Among the changes that have been made:

Revamped the role of Athletics Director. The revised position has substantially more responsibility to assure compliance by coaches and other staff with external and internal rules and procedures.
As part of these efforts, Mr. Joseph was moved from the Athletics Department in November 2015, and he resigned from the College in October of 2016.
Appointed a new Faculty Athletics Representative who is an authority on sports law.
Established an Athletics Compliance Team with oversight regarding all of Baruch’s athletic programs and compliance under the leadership of the College’s legal counsel.
“Baruch will continue to cooperate with all investigative and law enforcement agencies regarding this matter, which violates all of our standards and values.”

Monday, February 20, 2017

Man pleads guilty to church embezzlement

A Raytown man pleaded guilty in federal court Tuesday to embezzling more than $86,000 from Nativity of Mary Church and school in Independence and Sacred Heart of Guadalupe Church in Kansas City, where he worked or volunteered.

David Townley, 59, pleaded guilty in Kansas City federal court to one count each of wire fraud, mail fraud and tax evasion. He initially faced a 14-count indictment when charged in June 2016.

By pleading guilty, Townley admitted that he committed wire fraud while serving as business manager at Nativity from December 2006 to June 2013. His job gave him access to collections, donations and tuition payments, and according to court documents he skimmed tuition payments and frequent bank deposits separate from his and his wife's salary payments.

During that same time period, Townley admitted, he stole more than $47,700 from Guadalupe, where he had been volunteering since 2002. He had been in charge of paying bills, making book entries and preparing tax returns. According to court documents is wrote unauthorized checks to himself and third parties.

Analysis of Townley's bank records showed he used the embezzled money mostly to pay off credit card debt. Townley also admitted that he failed to file federal income tax returns for tax years 2005-13 and tried to conceal his true sources of income at Nativity and Guadalupe.

Townley faces up to 45 years in federal prison without parole, and sentencing hearing will be scheduled for at a later date.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

WVSP investigate embezzlement involving Boone County Schools

The West Virginia State Police (WVSP) are investigating an embezzlement case involving Boone County Schools.

State police were at the bus garage Wednesday, February 15 serving search warrants for financial records.

According to the WVSP the funds being investigated are within the transportation department of Boone County Schools. However, there is a local business and individuals allegedly involved in this case as well.

Sgt. Sutphin of the WVSP Madison Detachment said they received a tip and that is when they started pulling records through the companies and discovered some fraudulent transactions had taken place.

“When we started piecing it together it just came in a whirlwind,” said Sutphin.

According to Sgt. Sutphin this has probably been going on for about two years. As for the dollar amount the WVSP have not come up with a grand total at this time.

“Every day the totals are going up and down,” said Sutphin.

“It is a pretty complex investigation,” said Sutphin. “This basically involves a pretty large scale of converting transportation monies into a private business and also into personal purchases.”

The Boone County School system has been taking some hard hits financially in the last few years with their budget. There have been layoffs, pay cuts and school closures during this time and there is a possibility of more layoffs for the 2017-18 school year.

“The Boone County administration with the school board through the central office they have been nothing but supportive and nothing but helpful,” said Sutphin. “Mr. Huffman has done an outstanding job in assisting us. This is nothing they were aware of and has taken them by complete shock.”

Sutphin said Boone County School system is the victim of this.

WVSP have not released any names at this time. However, Sutphin said, “There is going to be multiple arrests made.”

At this time there is no timeline as to when these arrests will be made.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Trinity Christian coach out on bail, expected on sideline Saturday

The Trinity Christian School coach accused of embezzling nearly $400,000 is out on bail and expected to be on the sideline Saturday night when his team opens play in the state basketball playoffs.

Heath Curtis Vandevender, 48, of the 900 block of Westland Ridge Road in Fayetteville, was arrested Monday and appeared before a Wake County District Court judge Tuesday. He was represented by lawyers Mike Williford of Fayetteville and Trey Fitzhugh of Raleigh.

Later Tuesday, Vandevender was out on $50,000 bail. The bail amount was initially incorrectly reported by the Wake County Clerk of Court as $100,000, but his lawyer confirmed Thursday that the bail was $50,000.

Vandevender is accused of taking $388,422 from employee withholding money that was to go to the N.C. Department of Revenue. Vandevender's next court appearance is March 7.

Vandevender, vice president of Truth Outreach Center Inc., is accused of taking the money between Jan. 1, 2008, and Dec. 31, 2015, a Department of Revenue spokesman said. Trinity Christian School and Trinity Community Services are under the center's umbrella.

The school is an independent, nonprofit, private day school that offers classes in grades K-12.

Vandevender is the school's athletics director and coaches the boys' basketball team. Trinity Christian begins its postseason in the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 1-A playoffs with a home game Saturday.

Vandevender, son of Trinity Christian Church founder Rev. Dennis Vandevender, and all school athletics and administration officials have declined comment on the case. Vandevender did send a text message late Tuesday to the Observer's sports editor that said, "All I can say is I'm teaching and coaching starting tomorrow."

Trinity Christian School, at 3727 Rosehill Road, has turned out several college basketball players, many considered high-profile recruits. The latest in that line was Dennis Smith Jr., a freshman at N.C. State who is among the front-runners for the ACC's top rookie award that will be handed out next month and a possible NBA lottery pick this spring.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Director of home for girls, his wife indicted on embezzlement

The former director of Happiness Hill Christian Home for girls on Deemer Road and his wife were arrested last week on an indictment charging them with embezzlement. The indictment charged that Jack Lee High, 70, of 11871 Road 505,  and Karen Lynn High, 68, same address, embezzled $25,000 or more from the Christian home, a mission of Lighthouse Baptist Church in Lafayette, Ind.  A Neshoba County grand jury handed down the indictment during its December session. The two were booked at the county jail Thursday. They were initially arrested in April 2016 after a state audit showed that $210,313.36 was missing from the home, Sheriff Tommy Waddell said. However, he said a separate in-house audit showed $383,251.05 was missing. High was director of Happiness Hill and his wife was secretary/treasurer, Waddell said. The Highs are no longer employed by the home. Authorities were notified of the missing funds on March 8, 2016, by William Murdock, chairman of the board of Lighthouse Baptist Church. Happiness Hill was founded in 1991 by Raymond and Kaye Palmer. It is a home for young ladies between the ages of 13-17 who want and are willing to receive help. According to their website, many of the young ladies have been abused, neglected and unwanted.  Some may be caught up in alcohol, drugs, being with the wrong crowd, rebellion and some may just have no one to care for them, the website said. Among the home’s financial supporting ministries in this area at the time of their arrests were: Arlington, Calvary and Enon Baptist churches and First Baptist Church of Union and Greenland Baptist Church of Union. A home for boys was later opened called the Solid Rock Boy’s Home. The two homes are located within five miles of each other on Road 505, better known as Deemer Road. - 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Former Broken Arrow church employee charged with embezzling nearly $245,000

A woman was charged Tuesday with embezzling nearly $245,000 from a Broken Arrow church to pay her credit card bills and purchase concert and theme park tickets, authorities said.
Candy Jean Tompkins, 47, faces five charges of embezzlement by employee for money taken from Arrow Heights Baptist Church, 3201 S. Elm Place, since 2008 when she was employed as payroll administrator, according to an affidavit.
After hiring a new company to take over payroll duties, the church’s pastor, Roger Taylor, discovered the alleged finance discrepancies, the document states.
Tompkins, who also uses the last name Butler, is accused of not withholding the agreed upon amount of insurance from her paycheck. The total amount is estimated to be $33,414.52 over the course of her employment, according to court documents.
Investigators believe Tompkins also charged approximately $100,282.00 to various employees’ company credit cards to purchase concert and theme park tickets, as well as for travel and purchases from
Those cards were intended for buying church supplies, prosecutors said.
Tompkins allegedly also used church funds to pay two personal credit card debts, paying $75,548.47 on one card beginning in 2012 and $60,740.74 for another card.
For the first credit card, investigators said they chose to only search records back to 2012 because of the costs of getting that information from the bank.
Tompkins is also accused of taking $35,619.10 from funds she was supposed to deposit into the church’s bank account from tuition payments from parents whose children attend a ministry program, according to the affidavit.
Tompkins refused to speak with investigators when they initially approached her, authorities said.
When they reached out to her new employer, A-Best Roofing, officers discovered she’d been fired because of suspected embezzlement, investigators said.
She was charged with embezzlement in that case on Jan. 26, according to court records. She is accused of taking $6,133.68 from the business.

A district judge ordered a warrant for Tompkins’ arrest in relation to both cases. Online jail records indicate she has not yet been arrested.