Worker accused of stealing $220,000 from Lancaster charity

jmcfadden@heraldonline.comFebruary 27, 2013 

— A longtime employee is suspected of embezzling at least $220,000 from a Lancaster charity after an independent audit showed discrepancies in the company’s yearly finances.

Late last week, James Morton, president of the J. Marion Sims Foundation, told police that Georgia-based auditing firm Moore Stephens Tiller, LLC, found disparities in their accounts while performing an annual audit Feb. 19, according to a Lancaster Police report. The bank in which the funds were deposited was informed of the situation.

While Morton spoke with bank representatives, a 41-year-old employee walked into his office and asked if he should report to work the next day, the report states.

Morton and the employee, who had worked at the company for more than 10 years, discussed the situation, and the employee admitted to taking the money, according to the report.

Foundation officials speculate that the employee, a Lancaster man, invested the money in the stock market. The employee was escorted out of the building on North White Street and hasn’t returned, the report states.

According to the report, the employee confessed to other people besides Morton, who waited until Friday to report the incident to police until bond agents could be notified and the total financial impact realized.

No arrests had been made by Wednesday evening, Lancaster Police Chief Harlean Howard said.

Morton said foundation records indicate unauthorized funds were withdrawn from the foundation’s account sometime in 2011 or late 2012, the report states, and the auditing firm decided to inspect records from other years.

‘Former employee’

On Friday, the foundation issued a news release saying they were made aware of a theft regarding a “former employee.”

“While not insignificant, the amount is such that the loss will not impair the foundation’s day to day operations or its grantmaking (sic),” the release states.

Foundation staff declined to comment, citing an active investigation.

Created a year after the 1994 sale of the Elliot White Springs Memorial Hospital to Community Health Systems, the foundation supports health and wellness programs focusing on prevention and education through grants and scholarships. It serves people living in Lancaster, Great Falls and Fort Lawn.

In 2011, the foundation awarded more than $200,000 in grants to Brooklyn Springs Elementary School, the Lancaster Housing Authority and Christian Services of Lancaster, according to an annual report. The foundation also gave grants to the Great Falls Rescue Squad, Chester County school district and the Lancaster Fatherhood Project.

Five people serve as foundation staff members and 11 people sit on its Board of Trustees. The employee suspected in the embezzlement is not a member of either the board nor the foundation staff.

Jonathan McFadden •  803-329-4082

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