Portland environmental group accuses former business manager of embezzling $117K

By Bill Trotter, BDN Staff
Posted March 14, 2011, at 8:27 p.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — A nonprofit waterway group that maintains more than 190 islands and sites along the Maine coast has filed a civil suit against a former staffer who it claims embezzled more than $100,000 from its coffers.

Maine Island Trail Association is accusing its former business manager, Patricia Dano of Naples, Maine, of embezzling $117,000, according to MITA officials.

A civil complaint filed March 3 by MITA against Dano in Cumberland County Superior Court indicates that Dano allegedly embezzled $105,000 from the trail group. Rod Vogel, chairman of MITA’s board of trustees, said Monday that information gathered about the case since the initial filing suggests that a total of $117,000 has been stolen from the organization.

Attempts Monday evening to track down contact information for Dano such as a phone number or an e-mail address were unsuccessful.

Vogel said Monday that Dano worked for MITA until Feb. 1, when her position was eliminated for reasons unrelated to the alleged embezzlement. Dano, who had worked for MITA since August 2006, was given a severance package when her position was eliminated, according to the court complaint. The amount of the severance package was not identified in the document.

Vogel said that after Feb. 1, during the transition in which Dano’s duties were transferred to another employee, MITA officials discovered some suspicious financial transactions in the group’s records.

According to the court complaint, Dano had access to a KeyBank business credit card issued to MITA and to a checking account MITA had with Bangor Savings Bank. Dano allegedly used the KeyBank credit card for personal expenses and forged the signatures of MITA Executive Director Doug Welch on the group’s checks. Dano is accused of concealing the unauthorized financial activity by creating “parallel and inaccurate banking records” in MITA’s computerized accounting system, the complaint indicates. Dano also allegedly electronically transferred MITA money from the group’s accounts to make payments on her personal credit card.

After discovering the discrepancies, MITA hired an accounting firm to conduct a forensic audit, which revealed that a total of $117,000 had gone missing over a period of five years, according to MITA officials.

“Both the staff of the association and the board is taking this seriously,” Vogel said Monday afternoon. “We’re dumbfounded that this would happen to us as an organization and that this trust could have been broken.”

The alleged theft has been reported to the Portland Police Department. Lt. Gary Hutcheson of the department said Monday that police have just recently begun their criminal investigation and that no one has been charged yet in the case.

According to MITA’s statement, $117,000 represents less than 5 percent of MITA’s average annual operating budget during the past five years.

“Despite these past losses, we are pleased to report we are able to meet all our financial obligations and continue to move forward,” the statement indicated.

The group takes seriously its responsibility to make sure the funds it raises are used as intended, MITA officials wrote in the statement. MITA has taken steps to make its finances more secure and to help prevent future financial misdeeds, they indicated.

MITA, founded in 1987, maintains a water trail that extends from the New Hampshire border to Machias Bay. Along the 375-mile winding waterway, MITA owns or maintains more than 190 islands and sites, including Hells Half Acre and Steves islands off Stonington, Warren Island off Islesboro, and multiple islands in Casco and Muscongus bays.

http://bangordailynews.com/2011/03/14/news/portland/trail-group-accuses-former-business-manager-of-embezzling-117000/ printed on August 1, 2014