St. Vincent de Paul is missing $500,000; fraud feared

Tacoma News TribuneMarch 11, 2014 

More than half a million dollars might have been stolen from the local St. Vincent de Paul Society in a 10-year embezzlement scheme that "has grown to include multiple persons," the executive director of the Catholic charity has confirmed.

In a recent letter to supporters, Charles Thompson, executive director of the Tacoma-Pierce County St. Vincent de Paul Society, estimated the amount stolen over the last decade to be "more than $500,000."

The losses have forced the society to lay off 18 workers and close a Pacific Avenue thrift store, Thompson said.

Those measures, he said, "left us a shell of what we once were." Authorities, including the FBI, are investigating, Thompson said.

Thompson said a worker at the society headquarters who had "significant access" to agency funds embezzled the money using duplicate checks. The worker has been terminated, he said.

"There were journal entries that appeared to pay bills, but they were not paid," Thompson said. "We can substantiate about $500,000," he said. "We believe it took place over a decade."

Speaking to The News Tribune, Thompson said he was interviewed for the directorship in July, "and as I was being offered the job, (the board) discovered the embezzlement."

The shortfall was discovered by a finance manager new to the job, he said. Thompson said he has been in contact with Tacoma police and the FBI.

Police did not immediately find a record of the report. An FBI spokeswoman declined comment .

"The more I look into it, the more complicated it becomes," Thompson said. "We found out the hard way that our budget didn't make sense. It was built on a house of cards."

The charity was insured, Thompson said, and a claim has been filed.

"We believe we will get some of the money back," he said.

Although he was hired to raise funds, his task has grown, Thompson said.

"In many ways, we're starting over," he said. "We've starting from scratch. I can't deny that we have our own house to clean up. If we have lost public trust, we want to regain it."

C.R. Roberts: 253-597-8535

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