The former Executive Director of We Stay-Nos Quedamos, a South Bronx housing and social services nonprofit, recently pleaded guilty to diverting nearly $900,000 from the organization. How did she do it?
According to the New York Attorney General’s office, Yolanda Gonzalez paid her personal expenses, such as payments on her new car and trips to department stores, nail salons, and movie theaters, using the organization’s money. She brazenly wrote checks to herself or to cash, made ATM withdrawals, and used the organization’s credit cards.
It helped that Gonzalez didn’t work alone. She and the former CFO of the organization worked together to falsify financial reports, balance sheets, and financial statements to conceal her theft before submitting them to the board of directors and the Attorney General’s office.
Gonzalez was finally removed by Nos Quedamos’ board of directors after serving the organization for 6 years when they noticed the financial irregularities and became uncomfortable with her hiring her relatives. The board then alerted New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman of the suspicious activity. Perhaps partially to blame was the trust the board placed in Gonzalez as the daughter of the founder of the organization, who passed away in 2005.
Gonzalez is set to be sentenced in January for grand larceny and criminal tax fraud. She faces up to 4.5 years in prison. The organization’s former CFO is set for sentencing in February and is expected to face 6 months of house arrest and 5 years of probation for falsifying business records.
Are you surprised that it took the board 6 years to notice Gonzalez’s theft? What steps does your organization have in place to catch financial irregularities quickly?