Former Maine Tourism Association finance manager accused of stealing more than $10,000 from organization

Posted Jan. 22, 2014, at 12:14 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 22, 2014, at 3:48 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — A former Maine Tourism Association employee accused of stealing more than $10,000 from the organization will appear in court on Jan. 28 to face a felony charge, according to Kennebec County District Attorney Maeghan Maloney.

Ronald Brann, 44, who lived in New Gloucester at the time of the alleged thefts but now lives in West Gardiner, faces one count of Class B theft by unauthorized taking.

A complaint filed Wednesday by the Kennebec County district attorney’s office alleges that between July 2010 and July 2012, Brann stole at least $10,000 from the organization and used the money for his own purposes. The total amount police believe he stole during that time has yet to be released. Both Maloney and Vaughn Stinson, CEO of the group, declined to say how much was taken, but the minimum requirement for a felony theft charge is $10,000.

Brann was employed for about two years with the Maine Tourism Association as human resources and finance manager, Stinson said. He left the organization for another job about two months before the thefts were discovered, according to Stinson.

In a recent letter sent to members of the group, Stinson explained the situation and assured them that no membership information was compromised in the thefts, just the money.

The association first caught wind of the thefts in late 2012 after a “very astute employee noticed a discrepancy in a credit card charge,” Stinson said during a phone interview Wednesday.

Stinson said he immediately brought news of the irregularity to the organization’s board and attorney and commissioned a full forensic audit of the association’s financial records.

“This former employee was able to circumvent security safeguards that we had in place at the time,” Stinson wrote in his letter. “Those safeguards have been upgraded and will continue to be monitored.”

Stinson declined to say what these new security procedures were, but said the association collaborated with an accounting firm to put them in place.

“I feel that we’ve gone in there and made some changes that make [theft] that much harder,” Stinson said. He also said the accounting firm he worked with acknowledged that “at the end of the day, it all comes down to the honesty of your employees.”

Stinson declined to release many details about the thefts because the case has yet to reach the courts and he doesn’t want to hurt the prosecution’s case. He said he felt “full responsibility” because the thefts happened on his watch and described the alleged crimes as “embarrassing and hurtful.”

Since the thefts, the organization has recouped most of the money lost thanks to its insurance coverage, according to Stinson. The organization’s total budget last year was about $2.1 million, he said.

“However, any amount of money that goes unaccounted for, gets spent in the wrong way, is absolutely unacceptable,” Stinson added.

Stinson said the organization, which has about 50 part- and full-time employees across the state, is still fiscally solid. The Maine Tourism Association is a nonprofit group that operates the state’s visitor information centers and produces the state’s official travel guide for worldwide distribution.

Brann is scheduled to make his initial appearance at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 28, in Kennebec County Superior Court in Augusta, according to Maloney. He has not been arrested, but has been summoned to appear in court. Maloney said Brann has no criminal history.

Maloney said Brann has been interviewed by Hallowell police, as the alleged thefts were from the association’s administrative offices in Hallowell, and that state police also played a role in the investigation.

The investigation was extensive, the district attorney said, and involved extensive review of financial documents and records.

“There were an enormous number of documents involved,” she said. “At this point, we’re presented with a very clear investigation.”

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