Two/Too Frequent Victims

Religious organizations and law firms join medical practices in the types of organizations frequently victimized by employees who embezzle.

Right up there in my top ten victimized organizations along with medical practices are religious organizations and law firms. Here is an example of each from today’s papers.

WARWICK, R.I. (AP) – A bookkeeper for a Warwick church faces a felony embezzlement charge that accuses her of stealing thousands of dollars from church accounts. Elaine Walmsley had been the sole bookkeeper at St. Kevin’s Roman Catholic Church since 2002. The 61-year-old woman was released without bail after her arrest Thursday. She must appear in court for a hearing next month. State Police said Walmsley used church checking accounts to pay for $69,000 in expenses on her American Express card. Detectives also identified $20,000 in checks made payable to Walmsley. The Diocese of Providence requested a police inquiry after auditing the church. A diocesan spokesman said Walmsley’s employment status is being reviewed. Walmsley declined to comment when reached by phone. She has not yet hired an attorney.

SOUTH WINDSOR (Htfd Courant) – A former paralegal at a South Windsor law firm aces a prison term at sentencing Jan. 6 in federal court in Bridgeport after pleading guilty this week to stealing $1.7 million from the firm to cover her gambling debts. Patricia Baddeley-Meehan, 43, of 5 Carolyn Circle, Ellington, admitted to federal authorities that she stole the money between August 2003 and May 2007 while working at the law firm Berman & Russo and had signatory authority to the firm’s client fund account, operating account and bill paying account. Baddeley-Meehan pleaded guilty Tuesday to two counts of mail fraud and one count of filing a false tax return. She also owes $37,024 in back taxes for 2004 and $86,735 for 2005, according to the U.S. attorney’s office. According to evidence in the case, Baddeley-Meehan had several credit card accounts in her name that she used for purchases and cash advances. The records of those accounts indicated that between Aug. 11, 2002, and June 23, 2007, Baddeley-Meehan took cash advances totaling $1.463 million at various casinos. In August 2003, according to the court record, she began to cut checks from the law firm’s client fund account to pay her credit card bills. Between then and May 2007 she wrote 77 checks totaling $1.716 million from the client fund account to her credit card companies.