Friday, November 7, 2014

Michigan Couple Charged With Embezzling $357K From Senior Living Community

From on 11/7/2014:

A Midland County couple is accused of embezzling more than $350,000 from a Saginaw company offering subsidized housing at three locations.

Police allege the embezzlement took place over a five-year period at Saginaw Westchester Village.
Westchester's now-former executive director, Michelle R. Johnson, and her husband, Mark J. Fortier, are charged with three felonies each and face up to 20 years in prison.

Johnson, 42, and Fortier, 52, of Coleman are charged with conducting a continuing criminal enterprise, embezzling more than $100,000, and embezzling more than $50,000 but less than $100,000.

"The suspected loss is upwards of $357,116.14, which Johnson accomplished by using a Citizens Bank Visa card belonging to the victim," Saginaw Township Police Detective James MacDonald stated in a sworn affidavit.

MacDonald stated Johnson worked as the executive director and project administrator for Westchester, which has two campuses in Saginaw Township and one in Saginaw for those 62 years of age or older or disabled over the age of 18, from April 2003 until she was fired on March 28, 2014.
Westchester board members on Feb. 17, 2014, were alerted to "questionable expenses" after a 2013 audit, MacDonald stated. Johnson "recognized" $17,857.23 as being "misunderstandings of her purchasing authority" and offered to pay back that amount and forego any additional bonuses for the year, the detective stated.

Because Westchester is subsidized by the federal government's Homeowners' Assistance Program, board members decided to fire Johnson, MacDonald stated. Westchester officials then reported the discrepancy to the Saginaw Township Police Department, which directed them to arrange for an independent audit, MacDonald stated.

Braun Kendrick performed the audit, MacDonald stated, and found that from April 10, 2009, to June 11, 2014, there was $174,711.75 in "non-business activity" charges and $182,404.39 in "potential business expenses." The charges were on a Visa card issued to Johnson that also had two other authorized signers: the Westchester president and Fortier, who was a previous maintenance employee for Westchester, MacDonald stated.

The auditor further found that account statements provided by Citizens Bank did not match statements provided by Johnson, MacDonald stated. The auditor, the detective stated, "pointed out that these types of changed/altered transaction locations in the statements provided by Johnson, as compared to the statements provided by Citizens Bank, are prevalent throughout the aforementioned time frame of 2009-2014."

Some of the transactions in the statements obtained from the bank showed purchases in Hawaii, at professional sporting events, and at Home Depot and Lowe's in Midland, MacDonald stated. Other transactions included cash advances at casinos, the detective stated.

Johnson and Fortier turned themselves in to authorities on Oct. 30, when Saginaw County District Judge M. Randall Jurrens arraigned them and released them on $30,000 personal recognizance bonds.
Both the criminal enterprise and over-$100,000 embezzlement charges carry maximum penalties of 20 years in prison, while the other embezzlement charge carries a 15-year maximum penalty. The over-$100,000 charge carries a maximum fine of $50,000 and/or three times the amount embezzled, whichever is higher, and the over-$50,000 charge carries a maximum fine of $25,000 with the same parameters.

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