$55,000 taken from Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems fundraising nonprofit

Posted March 20, 2012, at 11:52 a.m.
Last modified March 20, 2012, at 1:27 p.m.
Michael Crowley, president of EMHS Healthcare Charities
Michael Crowley, president of EMHS Healthcare Charities

BANGOR, Maine — A former employee of the charitable arm of Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems has been accused of taking roughly $55,000 from the nonprofit.

Healthcare Charities discovered the missing funds in early March through a regular accounting review, according to President and CEO Michael Crowley. The organization is investigating, with an outside auditor, to determine the full scope of the losses, but most of the donations involved were likely smaller cash gifts misappropriated over the past several months, he said.

The employee, who has since left the organization, worked in a clerical position in the charities’ Bangor office, Crowley said. He declined to specify the worker’s length of employment.

Crowley said he couldn’t speculate about the former employee’s motives, other than to say the money was taken for personal gain. The person is believed to have acted alone.

“An organization like ours is built on trust and confidence and we take every dollar quite seriously,” Crowley said.

Eastern Maine Healthcare Charities raises $10 million to $15 million each year to benefit the health organizations that fall under the EMHS umbrella, including Eastern Maine Medical Center.

So far in the investigation, it appears the affected monies were intended for wellness, patient care and patient education programs, Crowley said.

The nonprofit is working with the Bangor Police Department to investigate the alleged misuse of funds, he said. No charges have been filed against the former employee.

Healthcare Charities sent letters this week to all of its current donors to alert them to the losses.

“As painful as this might be, we feel it’s important we notify all of our stakeholders, as well as do all we can to recover the funds,” Crowley said.

The nonprofit’s board was notified Monday, according to board vice president Lynne Spooner.

The letter sent to donors states that some personal checks may also be missing in addition to the cash gifts.

Healthcare Charities has instituted new internal controls since the discovery of the missing funds, including requiring that two staffers be involved in receiving and processing donations and making deposits, Crowley said.

The nonprofit will also run criminal background checks on all new employees, he said. That requirement was was not in place when the former worker accused of taking the funds was hired, Crowley said.

Healthcare Charities employs 21 people throughout eastern and northern Maine.

The organization’s board is confident in the new protocols and pleased with the executive team’s swift and decisive action upon discovering the missing funds, according to Spooner, a senior vice president at People’s United Bank.

“We’re confident that the added checks and controls Healthcare Charities has put into place will prevent this from happening again,” she said.

Healthcare Charities has set up a hot line for concerned donors. The number is 866-348-4078. Donors who wrote checks to the nonprofit that have not been deposited in a reasonable period of time are urged to call the hot line.

Anyone with information about the missing funds is asked to call Bangor Police Detective Tim Cotton at 947-7382. To remain anonymous, call and press 6 to leave a message on the tip line.

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