The former bookkeeper for a nonprofit that collects and distributes funds to various medical research agencies has been charged with mail fraud after she allegedly embezzled about $715,000 from the organization.
According to a bill of information filed last week at U.S. District Court, Patricia Blanchard, 67, embezzled the money from an unnamed charity, of which her husband was president and executive director, between 2006 and November 2011. She allegedly did so while working for Association Management, an independent contractor.
Blanchard and her husband, George Blanchard, incorporated Association Management in 1999, according to Louisiana Secretary of State’s Office records.
The charity is identified in court documents only as “Charity A.” George Blanchard, however, listed himself as president and CEO of Community Health Charities on his LinkedIn profile.
The bill of information states that Patricia Blanchard’s husband, identified in the document as “G.B.,” was hired as the president of the charity through Association Management.
Tax returns prepared for Community Health Charities of Louisiana and Mississippi for 2007 were signed by George Blanchard and list Association Management as one of the charity’s five highest-paid independent contractors. The tax documents note that George Blanchard was a 49 percent owner of the company, while Patricia Blanchard was listed as a 51 percent owner of the company.
Harold Samorian Jr., president of Community Health Charities in the southeastern part of the country, said George Blanchard is no longer president of the Louisiana-Mississippi office.
George Blanchard, who has not been accused of any crime, arranged to have Patricia Blanchard hired as the bookkeeper for the charity in 2005, according to the bill of information.
Patricia Blanchard appears to live now in San Antonio, according to public records. Numbers listed for her in public records were all disconnected. Her attorney, James Washington, did not respond to messages seeking comment.
According to the bill of information, Patricia Blanchard defrauded the charity three ways:
- First, it says, she would mail checks from the charity’s bank account to pay her own credit card bills. She would make fictitious notes on the checks, such as “Cancer Research Institute,” “March of Dimes” or “American Cancer Society,” in an attempt to make them look legitimate.
- Second, she would obtain cash advances on a personal gasoline credit card and reimburse herself from one of the charity’s accounts to make it look as if she was repaying herself for travel and gas expenses.
- Third, she would pay for personal items directly from the charity’s bank accounts without authorization.
The charity’s 2010 tax return says it contracted with a “third-party management company” from 2000 until December 2010 for its executive director. While the bill of information claims that Association Management was used by the charity beginning in 2000, the tax return claims that company was used only between July 2010 and December 2010.
A new executive director was hired in January 2011 after “the employees of the management company retired and the agreement with the organization was mutually terminated,” according to the tax return.
After the new executive director was hired, he and the board became aware of “potential misappropriation of funds by the third-party management company” after an account statement found $191,798 in expenses that could not be documented and that were not approved by the board of directors, according to the tax return.
The tax return notes that the charity had hired attorneys and was “considering options for recovery of the funds.”
“The local leadership has been actively involved in providing information to, and supporting the work of, authorities investigating this matter and is pursuing every avenue on behalf of its member charities,” Samorian said.
If convicted, Patricia Blanchard faces a maximum prison term of 20 years and a $250,000 fine.