Lodge member accused of stealing from scholarship fund
Thursday, July 18, 2013
By Lee Williams
SARASOTA COUNTY - Sheriff's detectives have arrested a former member of the Englewood Masonic Lodge on charges of stealing more than $90,000 from the group's scholarship fund.
According to reports, the investigation began in May when Michael Cripps, 59, of the 6400 block of Facet Lane in Port Charlotte, contacted the Sheriff's Office to report himself for the ongoing crime.
Detectives contacted the lodge and learned Cripps was the sole person with access to the account.
Financial records showed that since July 2007, Cripps cashed checks and made unauthorized personal purchases totaling $92,563.70.
According to court records, Cripps used scholarship checks to pay for auto repairs and wrote checks to himself, which he then cashed.
He opened an account at a Punta Gorda bank using scholarship funds, and received a debit card for the account.
Documents show he used the debit card on 386 occasions, including purchasing gas, groceries, items from Amazon. com and more.
The lodge established the scholarship fund to assist Lemon Bay High School seniors with college tuition.
Cripps turned himself in this morning and is charged with felony scheme to defraud.
He is currently being held on $50,000 bail.
According the the Sheriff's Office, this is the fourth arrest this year of someone who stole a significant amount of money from their employer, church or organization.
“We continue to warn business owners to institute procedures as simple as requiring two signatures on checks and ensuring monthly financial statements are reviewed by more than just the person responsible for those funds,” Sheriff's spokeswoman Wendy Rose said in a written statement.
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