$40,000 discovered missing from Galveston lifeguard group, triggering multiple investigations

Nick Natario Image
Thursday, June 6, 2024
$40K missing from Galveston lifeguard group triggers investigations
A Galveston Park Board worker was placed on leave as an investigation looks into $40,000 gone from a non-profit group that the employee was tied to.

GALVESTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A Galveston Park Board employee is on unpaid leave as theft investigations are underway.

Galveston police officers said they're investigating a possible embezzlement case involving a park board employee. A couple of weeks ago, the nonprofit Galveston Lifeguarding Association Inc. found $40,000 missing after it wanted to construct a statue honoring Black lifeguards.

The park board employee is a member of the nonprofit. The group discovered money had been withdrawn from ATMs in Galveston, Lake Charles, Oklahoma, and Las Vegas over several months.

That's not all. After the lifeguard money went missing, the park board said it looked at its own books and discovered potential misuse by the same worker.

"It is very common to answer your question, especially with organizations like smaller nonprofits that don't really have the resources to bring in external auditors or things like that," Association of Certified Fraud Examiners trainer Jason Zirkle explained.

Zirkle said that's why it's essential to have separate duties, like making sure the person who enters payments also doesn't approve them.

"You also want to have anti-fraud training for all employees," Zirkle said. "It should be ongoing. You want to have an anti-fraud policy, and you want to have reporting programs like hotlines."

The park board put the employee on unpaid leave. So far, officers said no one has been charged in a law enforcement investigation, which experts say needs to happen.

"You would be surprised at how often, especially in the areas where we see churches and nonprofits, for some reason, a lot of times those groups tend to not call law enforcement," Zirkle explained.

Galveston Park Board CEO Kimberly Danesi sent ABC13 this statement regarding the investigation:

"Since joining the Park Board one of my top priorities is to ensure we are seen as community leaders who act with the utmost integrity in everything we do. It is key that we earn and keep our residents' and visitors' trust, and our team works hard every day to do just that.

A member of the Galveston Island Beach Patrol is alleged to have mismanaged monies for a nonprofit organization not related to the Galveston Park Board. Records show nonprofit money was systematically removed from the charity's operating account over several months through cash withdrawals. This alleged mismanagement was brought to our attention, and we took immediate action to place the employee on unpaid administrative leave to ensure our public trust was unwavering.

We decided it would be prudent to review our financial records to ensure all monies were properly accounted for. As a result, an investigation is underway at the Park Board to determine if there has been any mismanagement of Park Board funds. The investigation is ongoing.

We uncovered possible discrepancies with a Beach Patrol credit card. We have taken immediate action to protect the organization from additional threats and will turn over our findings to the Galveston Police Department for investigation. We believe this to be an isolated incident but are thoroughly reviewing all records to ensure the money we receive is being spent in the way required by state law."

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