Friday, January 9, 2015

Darien Times of Connecticut Recaps Top Stories Of 2014; Includes Alleged $1 Million Embezzlement Of Veterans Non-Profit By Bookkeeper

From the Darien Times on 1/9/2014:

In a story that made national headlines, the bookkeeper of a Darien veterans’ charity was arrested in June for embezzling what was most recently estimated as over $1 million during the last five years.
According to police, National Veteran Services Fund bookkeeper Cynthia Tanner allegedly wrote checks to herself and relatives and fabricated a phony check register to cover the embezzlement.
In late May of 2014, the Darien Police Department received an embezzlement complaint involving an employee at the National Veteran Services Fund. Phil Kraft, president of the fund, said irregularities in the company’s financial statements were discovered by an accounting firm and were brought to his attention. Police said it was quickly determined that Tanner, the organizations bookkeeper, had been using the organization’s funds for personal use.
An initial estimate was that Tanner had embezzled more than $830,000 from the organization’s checking account alone, over the past five years. Recently, Darien Police estimated that amount is closer to over $1 million and said the investigation is still ongoing.
The National Veteran Services Fund is a non-profit organization based in Darien that accepts donations to assist veterans and their families across the country.
According to police, at no point over the last five years was Kraft, the president of the fund, aware that the funds were being misappropriated.
Following the arrest, Kraft issued a statement to The Darien Times.
“There is not much that we can say beyond that this is an active criminal investigation. This situation came to light during our internal auditing and some questionable entries came up,” Kraft said.
After a detailed review with the charity’s accountants, Kraft said he contacted an attorney and “promptly set up a meeting with the Darien Police Department” and turned over all the relevant information.
“The matter is in the hands of the authorities for action and therefore we have no further comment at this time. We are very happy with the prompt action of the Darien Police Department,” Kraft said.
Tanner has been employed by the fund since 2008. Her responsibilities included payroll and the disbursement of funds to the charity’s clients.
Through the investigation it was allegedly determined that not only was Tanner writing unauthorized checks to herself, but that she was writing numerous checks to relatives also drawing off of the National Veteran Services Fund accounts.
In 2013 alone, police say Tanner wrote 135 unauthorized checks for more than $185,000 to herself and to her family members. According to the financial ledger that Tanner fabricated, these checks were written to veterans or clients of the fund. It was also allegedly determined that Tanner was making electronic payments for her auto-loans and was using the company credit cards for personal expenses such as airfare, vacations and internet purchases.
A warrant was secured for Tanner’s arrest solely for the checks she wrote in 2013. On Monday, June 2, Tanner turned herself in to the Darien Police Department. Tanner is charged with first degree larceny, which is a class B felony in the Connecticut.
Following the arrest, Darien Police also said they were investigating whether similar theft took place at the local Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #6933 on Noroton Avenue.
Police said Tanner, who was arrested on Monday was responsible for the bookkeeping at the VFW, also run by Kraft, for “several years.” Irregularities have been discovered in the organization’s financial statements, police said.
According to Darien Police, as of Tuesday, Jan. 7, there is no update on the VFW investigation.
Tanner has not entered a plea and the case is set for a jury trial, according to the Stamford Court clerk’s office.

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