Friday, October 29, 2010

Iona on alleged nun theft: Large part of $800,000 recovered

Iona College recovered a significant portion of the $800,000 stolen over the last decade, according to the college president's first statement on the theft, released today.

"Please rest assured that the College recovered a major amount of its loss," the statement from the president, Brother James Liguori said.

The statement, which was posted on the college's Web site, does not identify who took the money, how much was taken or why the college decided not to report the theft to law enforcement officials.

Liguori refused to answer questions in person and ends his statement with, "We have no further comment."

The Journal News reported today that faculty sources had identified the school's chief financial official, Sister Marie Thornton, as the employee fired last year when the school discovered the decade-long embezzlement.

The congregational president of Thornton's order, the Sisters of Saint Joseph, issued the following statement today. It was from Sister Anne Myers.

"The Sisters of Saint Joseph are committed to a mission of unity of all people with God and one another, therefore we hope for a just resolution to this situation involving Sister Marie Thornton who was an employee of Iona College."
Myers, who said she had known Thornton for several years, would not say whether she was staying at the convent in Philadelphia.

"She's in a place of rest and recovery," Myers said.

She also would not comment on whether there was any financial arrangement between the order and Iona over the repayment of the money.

She referred other questions to Iona.

The school had previously revealed the theft only in a supplemental report to its 2008 tax forms filed with the Internal Revenue Service.

Today's statement lays out a timeline for when the college learned of the theft and details some of its response.

Liguori says that it was brought to his attention on May 26, that a senior school official had been involved in the misappropriation of funds.

"That senior official was immediately terminated. The College continued to act swiftly. On June 5th, forensic accountants were brought in to investigate allegations of waste, fraud and abuse. An exhaustive investigation was conducted over 6 months by experts in criminal investigations, forensic accounting and computer forensics," according to the statement.
Iona personnel and outside vendors were interviewed and the manner in which the theft occurred was determined and whether other individual were involved, the statement said.
Based on the investigation's findings, the college took steps to safeguard against more theft.

But it does not say who was responsible.

"Appropriate personnel actions were taken in accordance with our human resources practices. As per college policy, we do not discuss specific details of personnel matters."
KPMG, the college's former auditor, declined to comment stating client confidentiality.


1 comment:

Unknown said...

That "a majority amount" of the loss was recovered may be begging the question a bit.

Most institutions bond their employees against thefts like this one. Usually the amounts collectible when a fraud occurs are limited to a certain amount, like $500,000.

So, was it fidelity bond money that was recovered? And if so, what did the good sister do with the $800,000? Was former Iona basketball coach Jeff Ruland right--i.e., Sister Susie had a wee bit of a gambling problem?

That was a helluva lot of bingo. :)