Embezzlement: How Maine churches and charities can avoid it

| August 8, 2011

It’s a familiar tale. It’s one that many longtime general practitioners of the law can tell. A concerned member of a nearly defunct but once thriving church or other charitable group walks through my door lamenting that some $50,000 of its funds just can’t be located. The concerned church or club member relates that its treasurer, whom I’ll refer to as “Ellie,” now 87, is reputed to have placed the investments – once earmarked for scholarships – in the ice box of her refrigerator at home.

"Ellie" hasn’t been acting quite like herself recently and the once revered community icon of the once buoyant charitable establishment hasn’t given a report on the whereabouts of the money for about three years now. Moreover, the organization that once boasted 65 members is now down to five. It stopped conducting regular meetings a decade ago, when Ellie was re-elected to her 19th term.

No one wants to ask "Ellie," or her family, for fear that even broaching any questions could be construed as an accusation.

Eventually, someone summons the courage to make the approach. A niece finds old certificates of deposits and bonds stashed away in a paper bag in the attic of "Ellie’s" home. Even though they’re no longer in the refrigerator and though the neglect has resulted in the forfeiture of some interest on the funds, they are indeed retrieved, not long before the charity is dissolved and the funds turned over to a treasurer of another local organization to handle.



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Category: Church Security

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