Thursday, December 17, 2015

Darien (Connecticut) women pleads guilty to embezzling veterans’ funds

A Darien women pleaded guilty Tuesday to embezzling nearly $800,000 from a national veterans charity where she worked as a bookkeeper.
Cynthia Tanner, 54, was in Hartford federal court on charges of fraud and tax evasion related to her work with the National Veterans Services Fund, which is based in Darien.
The charity accepts donations to assist veterans and their families. Tanner handled the payroll and the disbursement of funds to clients across the United States, according to police. Tanner fabricated a financial ledger to conceal that she was stealing money intended for veterans. With the ledger documented the donations, she made the checks out to herself and to family members, police have said.
Tanner also neglected to pay $270,026 in taxes taxes on the embezzled $794,768.47, according to the release.
She faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison after pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud, and potentially five more years on a count of tax evasion. She is to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Janet Bond Arterton on March 11.
Tanner was released on $50,000 bond following her arrest on June 2, 2014.
In addition to the Darien police, the investigation was conducted by the U.S. Secret Service and the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation Division. Assistant U.S. Attorney Douglas P. Morabito handled the case for the state.
The charity has a storied history. In 1978, a small group of veterans in lower Fairfield County became the face of the issue of Agent Orange in the United States, as they revealed the effects of the herbicide used by the military to clear vegetation on Vietnamese battlefields.
Stamford resident Paul Reutershan, a veteran, died that year of cancer, which he blamed on Agent Orange. In 1984, Reutershan’s lawsuit against the government and the makers of Agent Orange resulted in a class-action that was settled for $240 million.
The Vietnam Veterans Agent Orange Victims group evolved into the National Veterans Services Fund. Nine years ago, the agency was cited by watchdog agencies as one of the least efficient charity organizations in the United States. It leaned so heavily on paid fundraisers that 97 percent of the $4.4 million it raised in 2004 went to that function.
Tanner’s arrest was the result a complaint to Darien Police from Phil Kraft, the organization’s executive director and treasurer. Kraft reported that McEnerney Brady and Co., a New Jersey-based accounting firm, discovered irregularities in the agency’s financial statements.

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