Former Centre County United Way finance director charged with bilking funds from nonprofit

mcarroll@centredaily.comJuly 10, 2013 

The former director of finance for Centre County United Way has been charged with using the nonprofit’s corporate credit card to pay for $17,000 in personal expenses over a 10-year span.

Doris Conner, of Bellefonte, used the charity’s money for everything from buying airline tickets for family members to paying veterinarian bills to attending events at the Bryce Jordan Center, Ferguson Township police allege.

Conner faces felony charges of access device fraud, theft by deception, theft by failure to make required disposition of funds and receiving stolen property for purchases dating back to 2002.

She was arraigned Monday and released on $20,000 unsecured bail. Conner is represented by State College attorney Lance Marshall, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Tammy Gentzel, executive director of the county’s United Way chapter, said Tuesday the organization is aware of alleged thefts and the pending criminal case against Conner.

Gentzel, reading from a prepared statement, said irregularities with the credit card were discovered when the county United Way chapter changed its internal fiscal policies in spring 2012.

“We were deeply shocked and saddened by the discovery,” she said.

Gentzel said the United Way alerted police and fully cooperated in the investigation and has since taken aggressive actions to prevent a similar situation from happening again.

She said the chapter already has received partial restitution from Conner and from its insurance company and is confident it will recoup all of the missing funds.

“When the matter has been finalized, we are confident that there will be no loss to Centre County United Way, our partner agencies or our donors,” Gentzel said, reading from the statement.

According to a criminal complaint filed Monday, police said Gentzel reported in May a missing payment into her retirement account. Conner claimed she made the payment, raising concerns and initiating an internal investigation.

Police said the internal investigation revealed Conner made numerous unauthorized purchases between May 2002 and June 2012.

Conner allegedly used the card to make purchases at gas stations, convenience stores, auto repair shops, clothing retailers, a perfume retailer and to pay cellphone and YMCA bills, among others.

Police said Conner met with Centre County United Way board members in May and admitted to using the corporate credit card for personal purchases and acknowledged she was wrong to do so without permission.

“We’re all incredibility saddened someone we worked with for all these years, that this situation has come up,” Gentzel said. “But we really want to convey to donors that their donations have not been misappropriated. Everything is accounted for, and we are confident all the money will be returned.”

Gentzel said the organization has implemented additional checks and balances, including contacting an outside accounting firm to do some bookkeeping, to make sure a similar situation doesn’t happen again.

“The confidence that our donors have demonstrated with their generous financial support is something we do not take lightly,” she said in a statement. “On the contrary, we value the loyalty and faith entrusted to us as we raise, safeguard and distribute funds to support our neighbors in need.”

A preliminary hearing for Conner is scheduled for July 17 in Centre County Court.

Matt Carroll can be reached at 231-4631. Follow him on Twitter @Carrollreporter.

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