Sunday, May 22, 2011

Four Embezzlements And She Finally Gets Caught

by Gary Snyder

Louanne Aponte asked for forgiveness after being sentenced to 25 years in prison for stealing more than $1 million from three local nonprofits. Aponte pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree felony theft for stealing more than $800,000 from Family Connections, where she had become executive director in 2004, and more than $100,000 from the Texas Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies, where she was treasurer. District Judge Kocurek sentenced her to 25 years on those charges. Family Connections was forced to close because of the embezzlement. Aponte also pleaded guilty to one count of state jail felony theft for stealing about $5,000 from Hyde Park Christian Church, where she volunteered as treasurer.

Aponte has agreed to forfeit to the state her home Southwest Austin, her Mercedes and her boat to repay some of the money she stole. All of those items were paid for, at least partly, with the embezzled money. Prosecutors said the sale will probably generate about $300,000.

The first signs of embezzlement appeared in late 2009 after a state auditor performing a regular review noticed a discrepancy in Family Connections' financial documents. In February 2010 — while state auditors were in the nonprofit's office scrutinizing the books — Aponte said she was going home sick. Instead, she got on a plane and fled to Venezuela.

Over the next week, auditors told Family Connections' board of directors that Aponte had been giving them phony audits. The nonprofit owed the Internal Revenue Service and creditors hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Less than two months later, the charity closed when its funders refused to give it more money. All the employees were laid off. Family Connections filed for bankruptcy, and that case is still winding its way through the courts.

Meanwhile, with Aponte in Venezuela, prosecutors charged her then-husband, Marco Aponte, with money laundering because his name was on bank accounts into which stolen money was funneled. The Apontes have since divorced.

Nonprofit Imperative gathers its information principally from public documents...some of which are directly quoted. Virtually all cited are in some phase of criminal proceedings; some have not been charged, however. Cites in various media: Featured in print, broadcast, and online media outlets, including: Vermont Public Radio, Miami Herald, National Public Radio, Huffington Post, The Sun News, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Wall Street Journal (Profile, News and Photos), FOX2, ABC Spotlight on the News, WWJ Radio, Ethics World, Aspen Philanthropy Newsletter, Harvard Business Review, Current Affairs, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, St. Petersburg Times, B, USA Today Topics, ,, Responsive Philanthropy Magazine, New York Times...and many more • Nonprofits: On the Brink (iUniverse, 2006)
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