Cynthia Head – former Church Treasurer sentenced to Prison for Embezzlement Scheme

February 5, 2015

Cynthia Head, 51, of Brookfield, MO was sentenced to 21 months in prison for embezzling funds from the Brookfield Church of the Nazarene by writing unauthorized church checks to herself and making unauthorized withdrawals from the church’s bank Church Embezzlementaccount. She was also ordered to pay restitution of $192,000.

As part of the embezzlement scheme, Head also made unauthorized purchases with church checks at local Walmart stores of such items as computers, cameras, and vacuum cleaners only to then return the purchased items for cash. Head’s fraud scheme began in September of 2007 and lasted until October of 2013 and netted approximately $192,000 in fraudulent proceeds which Head used for her own personal benefit. As Treasurer, Head held a position of trust within the Brookfield Church of the Nazarene and this position of trust significantly contributed to the commission and concealment of the fraud.

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Little Crimes earn Prison Sentences too – Just ask David Liptak

January 22, 2015

DAVID LIPTAK, 50, of Milford, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Jeffrey A. Meyer in Bridgeport to 10 months of imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release, for embezzling $108,000 from his employer. LIPTAK also was Embezzlementordered to pay full restitution and a fine of $3,000.

According to court documents and statements made in court, LIPTAK was employed by Consolidated Management Group (“CMG”) of Westport.  CMG provided management services to condominium associations, including managing the bank accounts and expenses of the associations. From approximately June 2008 to March 2012, LIPTAK embezzled approximately $108,000 from CMG.

On May 14, 2014, LIPTAK pleaded guilty to one count of interstate transportation of money obtained by fraud.  He was ordered to report to prison on February 23, 2015.


Christopher Olivera, former GameStop VP of corporate communications and public affairs plead guilty to embezzlement

November 5, 2012

Why do good people, well educated people, make unethical choices – in many cases choices that are illegal – knowing that “Every Choice has a Consequence” and the consequences that follow unethical illegal choices are never pleasant?

Frank Christopher Olivera, former GameStop VP of corporate communications and public affairs plead guilty Thursday to one count of mail fraud for embezzling $1,965,900 from the company.

More information is provide on my White Collar Crime Speaker blog. You can read the full post here.

YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME


Texas duo – Silverio Garza, jr. and Joel Javier Garza sentenced to federal prison for embezzlement! Choices and Consequences…

August 6, 2011

Silverio Garza Jr., 60, and Joel Javier Garza, 42, both of  Rio Grande City, Texas, have been sentenced to prison for embezzlement, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced.

U.S. District Judge Randy Crane sentenced Garza Jr. and Garza to two years and four months, respectively, in federal prison without parole at a hearing yesterday afternoon in federal court in McAllen.

Garza Jr. and Garza (not related) pleaded guilty on June 7, 2011, to embezzlement – admitting they embezzled and converted property belonging to the United States government over a two-year-period between May 2007 and August 2009. Garza Jr. was the area operations manager for the Falcon Dam Power Plant, while Garza was the superintendent of the plant. The embezzlement was accomplished with the use of a government International Merchant Purchase Authorization Credit (IMPAC) card issued to Garza.

In deciding their sentence, Judge Crane considered the amount of embezzled property and the position held by each defendant at the Falcon Dam and power plant project. Following completion of their term of imprisonment, the court ordered each defendant to serve a three-year-term of supervised release. As part of their sentence, the court ordered Garza Jr. to  pay $31,521.40 in restitution within 30 days, while Garza must pay $64,600.45 in restitution with $10,000 due within 30 days and the balance to paid during the term of supervised release in equal monthly installments.

The defendants have been out on bond since their Dec. 2 and Dec. 3, 2010, arrests. They were allowed to remain on bond pending their surrender to the United States Marshals Service on Aug. 15, 2011, pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility where they will serve their sentence.


Jerry Holmes and R. Scott Pace face the Consequences of their Unethical and Illegal Actions. Prison, Probation and Restitution…

July 12, 2011

Every choice has a consequence.  What started out as a legitimate business turned into an opportunity to meet a need that coupled with individual rationalization became the fertilizer for fraud.  As a business ethics and fraud prevention speaker, I see this frequently…intelligent and well meaning businessmen (or women) meeting a perceived need illegally and likely rationalizing that “they’ll pay it back” thus justifying their soon to be discovered illegal actions and then being forced to face the very real consequences of them.

Here’s the US Attorney’s news release…

DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

United States Attorney’s Office
Western District of North Carolina

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 8, 2011

CONTACT: Lia Bantavani
704.338.3140
FAX NUMBER: 704.227.0264

OWNERS OF SETTLEMENT COMPANY SENTENCED TO 33 MONTHS IN PRISON FOR EMBEZZLEMENT AND TAX EVASION CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina announced that the owners of the Settlement Source, LLC, were each sentenced to prison terms for their role in embezzling money from the escrow account at the Settlement Source and for tax evasion.

U.S. District Judge Max O. Cogburn, Jr. sentenced Settlement Source owner and former chief executive, Jerry Holmes, 64, of Matthews, N.C., to serve 33 months in federal prison, to be followed by two years of supervised release. The defendant was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $1.9 million. Judge Cogburn also sentenced Settlement Source owner R. Scott Pace, 38, of Charlotte, to 33 months in federal prison, two years of supervised release, and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $1.9 million.

The United States Attorney’s Office is joined in making today’s announcement by Chris Briese, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Charlotte Division, and Jeannine A. Hammett, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) – Criminal Investigation Division (CID). Holmes and Pace pled guilty to the charges in a criminal bill of information filed on May 19, 2010. According to the bill of information, in or about November 2005 Holmes and Pace discovered that they could embezzle client funds from the escrow account – at least initially – without any customer discovering the embezzlement and without any noticeable effect on operations. Over time, Holmes and Pace, assisted by another defendant not yet sentenced, embezzled substantial amounts of money for, among other things, real estate investments, a box suite for Carolina Panthers football games, personal loans, and a loan for Holmes’ daughter and son-in-law to purchase a house. When the scheme collapsed in or about July 2008, it caused losses to clients and insurers of approximately $2.4 million.

In pronouncing the sentences, Judge Cogburn stressed that the sentences were only as low as they were because the defendants self-reported the fraud, believing it was unknown to the government. Holmes and Pace will be allowed to self report to begin service of their prison terms once the Federal Bureau of Prisons has designated the facilities at which they will serve their respective sentences. All federal prison sentences are served without the possibility of parole.

The investigation was led by the FBI and IRS-CID. The prosecution for the government was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kurt W. Meyers of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte.

If you have information that might be helpful in this case in identifying the motives behind the actions taken by Holmes or Pace…please share.

YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME!


Burr Oak Cemetery ex-director – Carolyn Towns – sentenced to 12 Years in Prison! What did she do and Why? Comments are welcome!

July 10, 2011

Perhaps now this chapter of the history of Burr Oak Cemetery located outside of Chicago can be put to rest – much like people would want for those buried there.  Unfortunately Burr Oak, at least in recent day, has been anything but a place of rest rather it was a place where hundreds of graves were dug up and resold.

The former director of a Chicago-area cemetery Carolyn Towns, 51, who ran the Burr Oak Cemetery when the allegations surfaced in 2009, was sentenced to 12 years in prison after she pleaded guilty to all charges against her, including dismembering a human body and theft from a place of worship, according to state prosecutors in Cook County, Illinois.

WHAT DID THEY DO?

In an effort to sell more property (grave spaces) prosecutors allege the grave diggers would exhume bodies, crushing vaults and caskets before dumping human remains at the cemetery’s trash site.  They then would  “double stack” graves, in other words  they would bury existing remains deeper into the ground before placing new remains in the same grave site.

In a CNN report the following is stated:

Towns “is very remorseful, not only for the pain she caused her family, but the families of people who have loved ones at Burr Oak,” defense attorney Susana Ortiz said, according to CNN affiliate WLS. “She accepted responsibility for the allegations in this case, and she would just like to put this behind her and move on with her life.”

As part of the grueling investigation, the CNN report goes on to say:

At the time, Sheriff Thomas J. Dart said the scene at the cemetery was disturbing. “I found bones out there,” he said. “I found individuals wandering aimlessly looking for their loved ones who can’t find them.”

The investigation also extended into “Babyland,” a section of the cemetery intended for children. Dart said he talked to countless women who could not find their children.

Authorities also discovered the original glass-faced casket belonging to 14-year-old Emmett Till, piled in a garage filled with lawn care equipment.

WHAT MOTIVATES SUCH BEHAVIOR?

An Associated Press article provides a clearer explanation as to the motives behind the Burr Oak debacle.  “Prosecutors say Towns stole more than $100,000 from the corporation that owned Burr Oak by keeping the payments for burials and having workers stack bodies or dump remains in unmarked mass graves.” Some published reports say the amount taken was more than 300,000.

According to the Chicago Sun Times, “Towns’ attorney Richard S. Kling said the money she stole fed a terrible gambling addiction, and blinded her sense of what she knew was right.”

As a business ethics and fraud prevention speaker, and also a person who is actively involved in the Death-Care industry, I see, all to often, that when three things come together: (1) Need; (2) Opportunity and (3) Rationalization – it creates the PERFECT STORM for fraud.  To be clear, just because those three things are present does not mean that Fraud will occur, rather it means that the conditions are right for the ethical person to make the unethical choice that can lead to illegal activities and fraud.  As I speak to groups internationally the significant question that comes up is not what happened – that is generally evident by the facts, but rather what motivated the perpetrators behavior in the first place?

It appears that Towns had a need (according to her attorney – support a gambling habit).  Towns also had opportunity as the director of the cemetery she had the power to authorize the maintenance worker to perform inappropriate and illegal conduct (they could have refused, but often in subordinate roles they will not assuming they are protected by doing what their boss tells them).  Lastly, Towns was so likely caught up in the illusion she created that she had no ability to see reality – hence she could rationalize her behavior.

None of this makes what she did right!  Not at all, but rather it, in simple form, shows what might have contributed to her mindset that what she did was right.

The judge in this case got it right!

“The victims in this case are essentially the public,” he said. “The defendant’s actions in these crimes caused ­­— while not physical harm ­— I believe irreparable emotional and psychological harm.

“There is no way to repair the harm done to those grieving families and friends.”

If you were a victim of Carolyn Town actions…feel free to comment here so others can know your feelings!

YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME!


This is just NUN sense…A Sister arrested for stealing $1.2 million. Isn’t that like a Biblical no no Sister Marie E. Thornton?

December 13, 2010

Sometimes the choices we make just don’t add up.   Take the case of Sister Marie E. Thornton, a former vice president of finance for Iona College and a nun.  Sister Thornton was recently arrested on charges of embezzling more than $1.2-million from the Roman Catholic college over the course of 10 years.

What?  Yep…that’s right.  Arrested for embezzlement.  According to published reports, Federal prosecutors collaborated with the Department of Education in bringing the charges, which were announced by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan in a news release.

According to the news release, Sister Thornton allegedly diverted college funds for her own use by turning in false vendor invoices for reimbursement and submitting credit-card bills for personal expenses to the college.

Iona College, in a statement, disputed the size of the theft, calling the $1.2-million figure “significantly inaccurate.”  Sorry, but I have to ask, is this just another attempt at a cover up by the Catholic organization?  In my personal experience, rarely have I seen the US Attorney’s office dramatically inflate the size of a crime.  But this might just be a bunch of nun sense anyway…

The college, located in New Rochelle, N.Y., had previously disclosed that it had fired an unidentified employee for misappropriating approximately $80,000 a year over a decade. Another employee thought to have been involved in covering up the fraud was also fired.

Iona said that it had taken immediate action after discovering a year and a half ago that an employee had misappropriated funds, and that it had conducted a follow-up investigation and put preventive procedures in place. The college also said it had recovered most of the missing money but declined to comment further.

Sister Thornton served as Iona’s vice president for finance and administration for roughly a decade, and she previously was assistant to the president for five years, according to the college’s financial documents. She holds a doctorate in educational administration from Fordham University and previously spent time as a teacher, a principal, and a deputy school superintendent.

BEHAVIOR QUESTION

With credentials out the wazoo…what do you suppose would motivate Sister Thornton to take such actions?  And, how do you suppose she was able to rationalize her behavior?

If you know Sister Thornton – please comment and lets establish a dialogue related to my questions above.

YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME!