A woman suspected in a check writing fraud scheme is being investigated for taking about $1 million from a Jewish charity.
The woman, Laurie Ann Reese, was a controller for the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County, and allegedly passed checks payable to herself using forged signatures from officials of the charity where she was employed.
Law enforcement officials said that between Jan. 6, 2013, and April 9, 2018, they believe that Reese, who is believed to be in her 60s, passed more than 325 fraudulent checks worth more than $992,000, a court document showed.
Reese used a signature stamp from an executive with the Jewish Federation and forged the signature of a different Jewish Federation executive before passing the checks at various financial institutions in North Texas, according to a federal court document.
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Reese is believed to be the only person involved in this fraud scheme, said Davilyn Walston, a spokeswoman with the U.S. attorney’s office.
Reese has not been detained and has not been indicted, Walston said.
It is expected that some type of arrangement will be made between Reese and federal officials, and if that happens, a grand jury will not have to decide on the case, Walston said.
The Jewish community and the entire community is disappointed, especially coming after the brutal assassination of 11 people in Pittsburgh. But their support is also resilient, said Bob Goldberg, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County.
“It’s hard and it’s sad but we have only one choice and that’s to put one foot in front of the other,” Goldberg said. “Our work is to try to make the world better. The people we serve still need our services.”
Roger Nober, who is chair of the committee appointed to investigated the theft, said the discrepancies were discovered during an annual audit. The auditors were unable to reconcile some checks and forensic accountants were hired to solve the mystery, Nober said.
Reese had worked in the small four-person office for more than 15 years and knew how to bypass the security measures that were in place, Nober said. Reese took great care to conceal the fraud, which may have started as early as 2011 to a time which exceeds the statue of limitations for this offense, Nober said.
Reese can only be charged with thefts that go back to the statute of limitations, Nober said. The thefts were discovered in late April, according to a Federation newsletter published this fall.
“It’s one of the hardest parts of this whole thing, to be robbed by a longtime trusted employee,” Nober said. “We want to see her brought to justice, but we take no satisfaction in that.”
The newsletter states the thefts may have totaled more than $1.1 million. Nober said he is not optimistic about the charity recouping any of the stolen funds. New procedures have been established to make sure that nothing like this ever happens again, the newsletter said.
“We all feel badly about the whole thing, because it takes away from services that support the needy, ” Nober said. “It’s hard to imagine that someone could feel like stealing from a charity is the right thing to do.”