Thursday, April 25, 2013

Former Community Arts Center Employee In Georgia Pleads Guilty To Embezzling $1.1 Million

From the Associated Press on 4/23/2013:

Former Woodruff Arts Center employee pleads guilty to embezzling more than $1 million

ATLANTA — A former employee of the Woodruff Arts Center in Atlanta on Tuesday pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $1.1 million from the organization that offers a variety of visual and performing arts.

Ralph Clark, 42, entered a guilty plea in federal court after reaching a deal with federal prosecutors, who are recommending a sentence of 41 to 51 months in prison. Chief U.S. District Court Judge Julie Carnes told Clark he would likely also be ordered to pay restitution. Sentencing is set for Aug. 7.

"The Woodruff Arts Center is an important part of the fabric of our community," said U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. "This defendant embezzled over $1 million from funds intended for the benefit of our citizens."

Clark worked at the Woodruff Arts Center as an HVAC mechanic from October 2004 until he was fired in October of last year, prosecutors said. He was promoted to director of facilities in the last two years of his employment, and his duties included maintaining the center's infrastructure.

He was authorized to approve vendor contracts up to $50,000, and prosecutors say he stole more than $1.1 million from the center between November 2005 and October 2012.

He used his wife's apartment cleaning business to bill the arts center for services that either were not provided or that he performed himself, prosecutors said. He also hired a maintenance company and said that if the company wanted future work at the arts center, it would have to submit inflated invoices and give him kickbacks of 30 percent.

The center began an internal audit after a supervisor raised questions about invoices submitted by Clark. Prosecutors say Clark admitted to the embezzlement when presented with the findings of the internal investigation.

The Woodruff Arts Center includes the Alliance Theatre, High Museum of Art, Young Audiences, 14th Street Playhouse and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.

Update (3/4/14): Clark was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison.

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