Impact of financial crimes on local organizations

Published: Feb. 11, 2020 at 9:17 PM CST
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There are dozens of nonprofits throughout the Chippewa Valley, and all rely on the generosity of the community to succeed.

When individuals take advantage of these organizations, it can create a lot of problems.

The Eau Claire Police Department's Financial Investigator has been busy lately.

"That position is one of our most important, just because it's such detail oriented work. You have to have the right kind of detective who has the patience to go through all that and the business acumen to be able to line up all these different clues and put the pieces together," said Officer Josh Miller with the Eau Claire Police Department.

Financial crime happens often in Eau Claire, according to police.

But more recently, there have been high-profile investigations opened.

One against a person accused of stealing funds from a local PTA, Boys and Girls Scouts, Joe Luginbill for suspicious financial transactions, and a person accused of stealing money from Regis Catholic Schools.

"Somebody will bring up an irregularity to our attention and then it just becomes a matter of peeling back all these layers," explains Miller. "Typically the people that we're investigating are involved in the book keeping or financial upkeep of these organizations. So they know it intimately, how to siphon money off, so we have to peel back those layers."

Wesley Escondo has been the CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwestern Wisconsin for more than five years.

He says the nonprofit has multiple people who look over the finances.

"There's a lot of redundancies in play to make sure that, one accuracy is paramount right? If you're going to be putting information out to the general public and the ones that are supporting you, you want to put out accurate information. But it's also difficult to have something wonky go on when you have 20 plus people that have visibility," said Escondo.

He says when one nonprofit gets taken advantage of, it can also hurt others around the area.

"I do know there's a general concern. You can look on social. I mean the comments now in terms of this is why I don't donate to nonprofits is hard, it's heartbreaking. Because there are a lot of good nonprofits out there and there's a lot of nonprofits that are doing right by the public," said Escondo.

Escondo says it's sad when he hears about people taking advantage of these organizations.

"They're doing great work and they need to continue to do that good work and a lot of times these things happen at no fault of their own. It's just unfortunate that there are some people out there wanting to do harm, maybe not specifically to nonprofits, but just in general," he said.

The Federal Trade Commission recommends before giving donations to a charity or nonprofit, check its website to see how the donations are being used.

Police say financial crimes take a long time to investigate, and if anyone suspects anything suspicious at an organization, you are encouraged to call your local police department.

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