INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. - One of Lake Tahoe's most established nonprofit organizations recently fired a "respected and trusted" employee who officials believe embezzled roughly $15,000 over a several-month span in 2012.
In a letter mailed to donors late last week, Heather Tone, president of the board of directors for Tahoe SAFE Alliance, and Karen Carey, the nonprofit's executive director, said they were "sad and disappointed" after an internal investigation determined the former female employee had stolen community donations and manipulated payroll records.
"...We are confident that the theft was committed by this one employee only," Tone and Carey wrote. "The perpetrator had been a long term employee who we respected and trusted. Unfortunately, we were betrayed and became a victim of her greed."
The employee was fired after an internal audit in late 2012, Carey said in a Friday interview with her and Tahoe SAFE Alliance board vice-president Sean Farnan.
"Over the last six months, it became apparent ... and it caused us to do an investigation," Farnan said. "Once we determined who we believed (was at fault), we met with the person in question ... and she was terminated within 24 hours."
Farnan and Carey declined to reveal the employee's name or discuss specifics of the internal investigation, as the information was being turned over to the Washoe County Sheriff's Office.
Detectives initiated a case this week, WCSO Deputy Armando Avina said on Tuesday, although further details could not be released.
Tahoe SAFE Alliance - which changed its name from Tahoe Women's Services in 2011 - is a nonprofit established in 1985 that's dedicated to the reduction of domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse in North Lake Tahoe/Truckee. Its main office is in Incline Village, with satellite locations in Kings Beach, Tahoe City and Truckee.
The organization's current budget is $1.4 million, Carey said, 78 percent of which comes from various grants, the rest through fundraisers and donations. The internal audit revealed no grant money was involved in the theft, according to the letter to donors.
Carey and Farnan said that while the situation is unfortunate, they were glad certain controls were in place to stop the situation before it became worse. Because only $15,000 was stolen, none of the nonprofit's programs will be affected.
The Tahoe SAFE Alliance board is convening a special team to review the organization's financial records in an effort to strengthen its internal policies and accounting procedures, according to the letter.
"Our donors ... and the community trusts us to be stewards for their money," Carey said Friday. "We all know how hard it is to raise money these days ... to even lose $1 in this manner is pretty awful."
Learn more about Tahoe SAFE Alliance at www.tahoesafealliance.org.