May 27, 2018
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Ex-employee of EMHS fundraising nonprofit indicted for theft

By Jackie Farwell, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — A former employee of the charitable arm of Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems who allegedly stole $56,000 from the nonprofit was indicted Wednesday by a Penobscot County grand jury.

Laurena Cunningham, 46, of Bangor was indicted for theft by unauthorized taking for misusing funds collected by Healthcare Charities, according to Michael Roberts, deputy district attorney for Penobscot County.

Cunningham was responsible for handing off donations to a courier who deposited the money in the bank, Roberts said. She allegedly skimmed off cash donations and made up the difference with check donations she held back from earlier deposits, he said.

“By basically juggling checks over a period of time she was able to keep this going,” Roberts said.

The nonprofit determined that $56,183 in donated funds were diverted between November 2011 and March 2012, according to a press release from EMHS. The release does not identify Cunningham by name.

Cunningham worked for several years in a clerical position at the Bangor office of Healthcare Charities, which discovered the missing funds in early March through a regular accounting review.

Cunningham appears to have acted alone, Roberts said.

If convicted, she faces up to 10 years in prison, a fine of up to twice the stolen amount, and paying restitution.

Healthcare Charities sent letters in March to all of its current donors to alert them to the losses. The nonprofit raises $10 million to $15 million each year to benefit the health organizations that fall under the EMHS umbrella, including Eastern Maine Medical Center.

Healthcare Charities now plans to attempt to recover the missing funds.

“We are disappointed that a member of our team appears to have violated our trust, as well as the trust of our donors and the communities we serve,” said Michael Crowley, president of Healthcare Charities. “Every dollar is important to our mission. We take this matter very seriously and accept full responsibility for the safeguarding of these vital funds.”

The nonprofit hired an independent accounting firm to assist in the investigation and instituted new internal controls after the discovery of the missing funds, including requiring that two staffers be involved in receiving and processing donations and making deposits, Crowley said in March.

Healthcare Charities also planned to run criminal background checks on all new employees.

“We appreciate the community’s overwhelming understanding and support as we continue through this unfortunate process. Our mission goes on,” said Lynne Spooner, vice chair of the Healthcare Charities board. “The board is pleased with the swift and decisive action taken as soon as the discrepancies were discovered. We place a high value on transparency and integrity at Healthcare Charities, and those attributes remain intact.”

Donors who have questions about their gifts to Healthcare Charities are invited to call 866-348-4078.

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