Former employee arrested, charged with embezzling conference funds

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Former employee arrested, charged with embezzling conference funds

Sept. 9, 2005    News media contact:  Tita Parham*    
800-282-8011     Orlando {0360}

An e-Review Feature
By Tita Parham

LAKELAND — Virginia L. Albritton of Lakeland was arrested Sept. 8 and charged with embezzling funds from the Florida Conference risk management program.

Albritton was charged with five counts of grand theft and one count of scheme to defraud, according to Polk County Sheriff's Department arrest records.

Albritton was an employee in the risk management office, but resigned from her position last December. It is suspected she began embezzling the funds more than five years ago, taking a little more than $700,000, according to Randy Casey-Rutland, Florida Conference treasurer and director of the conference's financial services office.

Casey-Rutland said it is likely the majority of the amount will be covered by insurance. The conference began the process of filing a claim with its insurance carriers last March.

Staff in the conference's financial services office began investigating a possible misuse of funds early last March when questionable expenses related to the risk management program were discovered while gathering data for the conference's annual financial audit.

Conference leaders contacted local law enforcement officials immediately and filed a civil lawsuit March 24 naming Albritton the person alleged to be responsible. Filing the suit enabled the conference to investigate and protect assets that may have been diverted from conference use into personal accounts, according to Casey-Rutland.

The Florida Conference Committee on Finance & Administration (CF&A) and Risk Management Committee met March 23 to begin reviewing the conference's standards and accounting processes to ensure no future misuse of funds occurs.

"We are committed to being good stewards of the funds entrusted to the Florida Conference and ensuring they are used for their intended purpose," Casey-Rutland said. "We have taken this situation very seriously and have been reviewing our financial policies and procedures to ensure they're as effective as possible."

Casey-Rutland said that review has led to a strengthening of processes already in place, such as requiring two signatures on checks, sufficient back-up documentation for payments and an annual, independent audit of all conference financial activity.

The conference has implemented measures to improve the reconciliation process so any issues can be identified sooner and is working with new auditors. "We have used the same auditors for a number of years and felt having someone who could look at policies and procedures from a fresh and different perspective would be beneficial to the conference," Casey-Rutland said.

The risk management program is part of the conference's financial services department and makes decisions for and oversees all of the property, liability and Workers' Compensation matters related to Florida Conference churches. The risk manager reports to Casey-Rutland.

The program is run by a committee of laity and clergy who are familiar with large commercial insurance programs and is funded by premiums received from insured groups within the Florida Conference, which includes the conference offices in Lakeland, district offices, local churches and their affiliates, the conference camps, and the United Methodist Children's Home.

"The financial integrity and viability of the risk management program has not been at risk," Casey-Rutland said, adding the ability of the conference to pay claims has not been impacted or impaired at any time as a result of any misuse of funds.


This article relates to Conference Financial Services.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.

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