Thieves Exploit Access To Agency Funds

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Two youth workers have been linked to separate thefts of $450,000 and $120,000: the first from a youth shelter in California and the second from an Armenian youth league based in Massachusetts. Both workers held positions that gave them access to their organization’s funds.

Police say Lydia Fitzgerald, 47, a former executive assistant at the Casa Youth Shelter in Los Alamitos, Calif., took the money from 2004 through 2007 and used it on personal expenses for herself and her family, including home remodeling, vacations, meals, clothes, a car and a boat. When the bank account used for payroll got too low because of Fitzgerald’s thefts, police allege, she opened a line of credit in the shelter’s name in order to transfer money into the payroll account.

The shelter director discovered the theft after the bank alerted her to discrepancies in agency accounts.

Fitzgerald has been charged with 23 counts of forging checks, 16 counts of altering books and records of her employer, three counts of computer access and fraud, one count of grand theft, one count of commercial burglary and one count of fraudulent use of an access card.

In the second case, Raffi Donoyan, 49, of Burlington, Mass., pleaded guilty last month to two counts of larceny over $250 and was sent to state prison for two years and sentenced to two years in a local jail, with the local sentence suspended for five years. He was accused of stealing more than $120,000 from Homenetmen Eastern Region, part of an international charitable organization dedicated to fostering scouting and athletic activities among Armenian youth.

A volunteer for the organization, Donoyan served as athletic director and a board member, which gave him access to the organization’s funds. Police said that from November 2003 through August 2005, Donoyan stole more than $120,000 by making cash withdrawals from the organization’s account and by writing checks to himself.

When confronted by the organization’s treasurer and president in early 2005, Donoyan said the IRS had taken money from the account, according to police. He deposited $20,000 back into the account, but then resumed taking money out of it.