May 20, 2010; Source: Philadelphia Inquirer | When Paul Decker, president of the Valley Forge Convention and Visitors Bureau, hired a Philadelphia accounting firm, Your-Part-Time Controller, to do his agency’s books, he didn’t have a clue that anything was amiss. He just thought that by bringing in the firm that specializes in lower-cost accounting services for nonprofits, he’d save some money. What he got, however, was also an outside set of eyes that added to his organization’s checks and balances.
In more ways than one, Decker’s decision proved prescient. While examining the books, an accountant came across a check Valley Forge’s then finance director, William Barnes, had written to himself. The accountant then alerted the firm’s president and founder, Eric Fraint, who along with his partner, Jennifer Alleva, began looking for other irregularities. As a result, of their investigation, Barnes was charged last week with siphoning some $775,000 of the agency’s funds.
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The Montgomery County (Pennsylvania) District Attorney’s Office said Barnes admitted to the theft to support the demands of his third wife. Fraint who started the accounting firm in 1993 out of a desire to do good for nonprofits, feels digging deeply when things look out of place is part of the job. As a result he finds “one or two cases of fraud or embezzlement each year.” Beware the trap of too few eyes on your finances. Many times the perpetrators of fraud are those who you may feel are most committed and above reproach.—Bruce Trachtenberg