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Big Brothers organization worried about financial future

UPDATE: They're asking for your help.

Board members of Big Brothers/Big Sisters of the Bluegrass say they won't be able to operate much longer, without the public pitching in.

This after they say their former office manager embezzled $435,000 dollars.

27 NEWSFIRST broke the story Monday night.

FBI investigators say Bendrea Wilson admitted forging signatures on 142 checks.

Investigators say the checks were written to five people with no connection to the organization, including Wilson's live-in boyfriend Demetrius Davis.

The non-profit has filed a lawsuit against Wilson and the five others hoping to get its money back.

Sandy Hatfield, the BBBS board president, says "Wilson was remorseful, she was in tears, but at that point it's kind of hard to believe what anybody says. If you were remorseful, why did you continue to do it so long."

Big Brothers/Big Sisters board members say they have made payroll this week but they'll struggle to make it again.

So far, no one has been charged criminally.

An emergency fund has been set up at Central Bank for donations.

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In a lawsuit filed late Monday, the non-profit organization Big Brothers Big Sisters claims an embezzlement scheme defrauded it of more than $435,000.

"Almost half the budget was stolen from this agency, but not just this agency, this community and children we serve and couldn't serve cause we didn't have the money," says Sandy Hatfield, BBBS Board President. "It's devastating to think about stealing from children. That's exactly what happened."

The organization says fraud investigators at Central Bank and Trust uncovered the scheme early last week. Now, BBBS hopes filing a lawsuit against six people, including the organization's former office manager, is the first step to getting the missing money back.

With half its operating budget missing, the organization fears an embezzlement scheme in the midst of a recession will be a painful combination. "If you believed in us two weeks ago, you should believe in us now," says Dale Suttles, newly appointed CEO of Big Brothers and Big Sisters of the Bluegrass.

Suttles tells WKYT that the organization obtained 142 forged checks totaling approximately $435,000. Each check bore the signatures of two BBBS board members. Those signatures were later determined to be forgeries, he says.

In a press release, the organization says the FBI questioned BBBS office manager, Bendrea Wilson, who admitted her involvement in the scheme. Wilson immediately submitted her resignation and was escorted from the building, according to the organization.

The embezzlement scheme shocked members of the organization. The group has two separate, outside accounting firms; a bookkeeper; and an internal auditor. None noticed nearly a half million dollars had vanished.

The FBI continues to investigate the case.


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