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Ghanaian convicted five years in US for stealing charity funds

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prisonA US court on January 30, 2013 convicted a Ghanaian national, Mawufemor Biekro, to five years imprisonment after the former foreign-exchange student admitted embezzling over $100,000 from the Girl Scout Council of Orange County in California while working for the non-profit charity group.

According to the California Orange County District Attorney, the 35-year old Biekro pleaded guilty January 30, 2013, to one felony count of grand theft embezzlement and two felony counts of forgery with a sentencing enhancement of excess taking for property loss over $65,000.

“He was sentenced under the new California sentencing scheme to five years and four months in custody, to be served as two years and four months in jail and three years under mandatory supervision,” the District Attorney said in a statement.

Biekro has also been ordered to pay $102,479 in restitution to the Girl Scouts.

The Attorney’s statement said at the time of crime, Biekro was a foreign-exchange student from Ghana and worked for the Girl Scouts.

Between January 2010 and February 2011, Biekro worked as a staff accountant, which included handling payroll and reconciling account ledgers.

The Attorney indicated that the embezzlement began shortly after he was hired in January 2010. “The defendant stole money by fraudulently forging 22 checks totaling $102,479,” it said adding “The embezzlement involved forging two checks totaling $9,301 each month for 11 consecutive months and manipulating Excel spreadsheet reports to cover up the amounts of the forged checks he wrote and deposited into his personal accounts.”

The financial malfeasance was however detected in February 2011 when a supervisor found discrepancies in a financial spreadsheet prepared by Biekro, which contained hidden columns with amounts entered in white font invisible to the naked eye.

The supervisor was said to have notified the Chief Financial Officer, and a short time later they discovered that “Biekro had cleared out his personal belongings and left the office”. That same afternoon, Biekro went to ATMs and deposited two of the forged checks into his personal account. The defendant later booked a one-way flight to Ghana and left the US.

Biekro, according to documents, later returned to the US and, on June 30, 2012, he was arrested on a warrant in Green Bay, WI, while boarding a flight to Washington Dulles International Airport en route to Ghana.

By Ekow Quandzie

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