SAFE program employee accused of stealing thousands

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- The executive director of a not-for-profit organization that helps provide families with supervised visitation with children says a former employee has stolen tens of thousands of dollars and left dozens of families without the court-ordered services.

"It's a big program, and a lot of people depend on it," said SAFE executive director Marinelle Timmons. "We have had a lot of calls that people that were waiting to start their supervised visitation and had not been given any information about start-up, and they're getting anxious because they want to see their kids."

Timmons said after she fired the employee responsible for intake of new clients, she found a fake receipt book with missing carbon prints. Timmons said the receipt numbers didn't match any of the deposit slips and about $8,000 in cash has been tallied as missing.

Timmons said days ago, she found two stacks of applications that may possibly represent parents who completed their court ordered registration with SAFE, paid their dues, but have not been able to see their children because of the theft.

Timmons suspects some families have been waiting months to see their children.

"For some of these families, it's their only option for the children to be able to see either one or both of their parents," said family law attorney Charlotte Rainwater, who has former clients who have found success in the SAFE program. "They just provide that environment for those kids to see their parents. She took something away from these families that she will never be able to get back."

As the puzzle of suspected crime now comes together, Timmons said she's waiting on the DA's office to come and get the evidence. No charges have been filed against the former employee.

Timmons is asking for any family who has applied for supervised visitation, paid fees, and hasn't heard back from SAFE to contact the organization immediately.
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