A former employee of the American Red Cross in New Orleans has been accused of misappropriating more than $42,000 by cashing numerous prepaid debit cards the organization hands out to victims of disasters.
Deborah McCoy, 63, who served as a “regional response specialist” for the organization in New Orleans, issuing and activating so-called client assistance cards, resigned in mid-February after being confronted by a superior. The District Attorney’s Office obtained a warrant for her arrest last month on counts of felony theft, fraudulent acquisition of a credit card and access device fraud.
The Red Cross began its own investigation after a disaster victim reported she “did not receive aid” from a client assistance card she had been issued to use for rent and bedding. “That (card) had been in the custody of Ms. McCoy for issuing to a qualified person needing assistance,” the warrant says.
According to the organization’s website, the cards can be used at retail locations accepting MasterCard. They also can be used to obtain cash from ATMs.
Norma Crowder, the Red Cross’s deputy director for local response operations, “approached McCoy wanting an explanation after discovering” that McCoy, instead of the victim, had received the funds from the card. “Since McCoy had no explanation,” the warrant says, “she was directed to return all remaining (client assistance cards) in her custody.”
Crowder asked McCoy whether she would “see her photo on the ATM camera” video showing the person who cashed out the card.
“I don’t know,” McCoy said, according to the warrant. “Am I going to jail?”
McCoy tendered her resignation Feb. 14. Four days later, she telephoned Kay Wilkins, the Red Cross’ regional chief executive officer, to apologize and ask whether she could repay the $525 she had been caught stealing. The warrant says McCoy repaid the money, admitting to the theft.
The Red Cross decided to review all of McCoy’s cases dating back to July 1, 2013, and “discovered numerous misappropriations” to the tune of $42,131. The warrant says the organization reviewed about 187 cases.
“The information in this matter was developed through a detailed review of our disaster services operation,” Nancy Malone, a Red Cross spokeswoman, said in a statement, adding that the organization would fully cooperate with authorities. “That information was turned over to law enforcement officials in Orleans Parish, who began an investigation into the matter.”
It’s not clear why McCoy has not been arrested. Christopher Bowman, a spokesman for District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation. Efforts to reach McCoy for comment were unsuccessful Friday.
The warrant, dated Aug. 5, says McCoy telephoned Nick Geraci, an investigator with the District Attorney’s Office, on Aug. 4 asking whether she could use her retirement funds to pay restitution, noting she receives about $1,500 a month. “McCoy stated she would contact her retirement fund to find out what can be taken out in one lump sum,” the warrant says.
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