At least $830,000 contributed to the National Veterans Services Fund over the past five years was embezzled by the organization's bookkeeper, who spent it on her auto loan, airfare and vacations, according to Darien, Conn. police who arrested her Monday.
That $830,000 figure is only an initial estimate of money stolen from the organization's bank account over the past five years through fradulent checks, police said. Tanner also stole money with one of the organization's credit cards, according to police.
Cynthia Tanner 52, of Darien, had worked for the NVSF since 2008 and was stealing from the organization since at least 2009, according to police.
"In 2013 alone, Tanner wrote 135 unauthorized checks for over $185,000 to herself and to her family members," Darien Police said in a statement released Monday morning. "According to the financial ledger that Tanner fabricated, these checks were written to veterans or clients of the NVSF."
She was arrested on a warrant charging her with first-degree larceny, a felony, solely for checks she wrote out in 2013, according to police, who said further arrest warrants are expected to charge her with more crimes.
Tanner, a resident of Stanton Road, turned herself in to Darien Police on Monday morning, June 2, and appeared in state Superior Court in Stamford the same day. A judge doubled her bond from $250,000 to $500,000, according to a report in the Stamford Advocate.
Darien police were told in late May that an accounting firm had discovered irregularities in the organization's financial statements.
"It was quickly determined that [...] Cynthia Tanner had been utilizing the organization’s funds for personal use," police said in the announcement.
NVSF is a non-profit organization based in Darien which accepts donations to help veterans and their families across the country.
"Tanner's responsibilities included payroll and the disbursement of funds to the charity’s clients," according to the Darien police announcement. "Through investigation it was determined that not only was Tanner writing unauthorized checks to herself, but that she was writing numerous checks to relatives also drawing off of the NVSF accounts."
The National Veterans Services Fund has received some notoriety over the years for the small percentage of money collected that actually goes to veterans — only 7.8 percent on average from 2002 to 2011, according to the Tampa Bay Times, which ranked NVSF the 8th worst in the country in 2013.
Last year, the Hartford Courant reported on the Charity Navigator website naming the NVSF one of the "10 Consistently Low-Rated Charities". According to the Courant, President Phil Kraft of Darien said he "wishes fundraising costs didn’t deplete 80 percent or more of the millions donated, but says he and his crew lack the resources and expertise to raise money on their own."
According to the Courant, Kraft mades a six-figure salary from the charity, headquartered in a small house on West Avenue in Darien.