By Patrick Winderl/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
A former bookkeeper for the Havre Day Activity Center was charged today with embezzling thousands of dollars from the bank accounts of center residents.
Rhonda Metzger began working at the center in 1997 and resigned earlier this year. She faces one count of embezzlement.
Havre Day Activity is a nonprofit corporation that operates five private group homes for more than 40 developmentally disabled adults and provides other services for them.
According to the charging document, Metzger embezzled more than $4,800 from center residents between August 2002 and April of this year. As client account manager, Metzger was responsible for overseeing the bank accounts of the center's clients. She used her authority to unlawfully make withdrawals from some clients' accounts, the document alleges.
Transactions made by Metzger first came under scrutiny by another employee who reviewed the center's finances. The employee noticed that small amounts of money were missing from a number of accounts, totalling $95.
The employee alerted center director Dale Boespflug, who met with Metzger on May 6, the document said. Metzger acknowledged that money was missing, and was given the choice of resigning or being fired, the document said. She resigned.
Further review revealed that more money was missing from client accounts than previously thought, according to the charging document. Money that a group home manager tried to withdraw from five client accounts to fund a group outing to West Yellowstone had already been withdrawn by Metzger, the document said. That missing money totaled $2,305.
Boespflug called Metzger May 9 and threatened to call the police if she did not return the money, the document said. Later that day, Metzger brought him $2,305 in cash.
Havre Day Activity hired a Great Falls certified public accountant to perform a complete audit of Metzger's transactions. The audit report, dated June 2, concluded that $4,862 in cash that had been under Metzger's control was unaccounted for, according to the court document.
The report was provided to Havre police in September, who arranged an interview with Metzger. During the Oct. 15 interview, Metzger told police she had "a severe gambling problem," the document said.
Boespflug said Thursday that the center has reimbursed those clients whose accounts were missing money.
"Every penny has been reimbursed to the clients," he said. "This is really, truly an unfortunate situation. Unfortunate for her, and unfortunate for the people that we serve."
Boespflug credited the center's internal controls for discovering the alleged thefts.
"One of the things I really want to say is that our internal controls worked magnificently in picking this up," he said.
Metzger is the second Havre Day Activity employee to be charged with stealing from the center in the last 18 months. In July 2002, former center director Gary Nimmick was charged with five counts of felony theft for allegedly depositing Havre Day Activity checks into his personal bank account and claiming reimbursements for phony business trips.
Under a plea agreement with prosecutors, Nimmick pleaded guilty to three charges of misdemeanor theft and was ordered to pay $7,500 in restitution. A sentence of three years in jail was suspended.