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Grant writer charged with theft

Sat., April 16, 2005

A Colbert man who works as a professional grant writer is facing charges that he stole thousands of dollars from a nonprofit organization that hired him to raise money.

Samuel Mahaffy, 52, is accused of stealing $26,000 from Spokane-based Center for Justice, which provides legal assistance to the poor and works on civil rights, environmental and other issues. The money was given to Mahaffy in 2002 to be used as a matching fund for a grant that would have enabled the organization to hire another attorney, according to a police investigation detailed in court documents.

Officials at the center say Mahaffy never gave the money to the organization that sponsored the grant.

Breean Beggs, executive director of the Center for Justice, said none of the $26,000 was returned. However, the center was able to raise the money from other sources and get the grant.

“We were fortunate enough that our supporters rallied around us,” Beggs said. “But that’s money that could have been used to do even more good stuff.”

Mahaffy has been employed part time in the Gonzaga University president’s office since January 2004 as a grant specialist. Gonzaga spokesman Dale Goodwin said the university was unaware of any criminal proceedings against Mahaffy.

Attempts to reach Mahaffy at the phone number listed for him at Gonzaga were unsuccessful Friday afternoon. His home number is unlisted.

The Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office has filed felony charges of first-degree theft and money laundering against Mahaffy. He missed an arraignment hearing Monday. Mahaffy turned himself in later in the week and was booked into jail and released on his own recognizance, said deputy prosecuting attorney Kim Concannon.

The center was planning to use the $26,000 to apply for a grant from the National Association of Public Interest Law, which is now called Equal Justice Works, to hire a lawyer to assist indigent single women.

The founder of Center for Justice, Jim Sheehan, donated the $26,000 needed as part of a requirement to put up half the money for the $52,000 grant, Beggs said.

A check of $26,000 was written to Mahaffy’s organization, Northwest Regional Resources, and deposited into a Bank of Whitman account in June 2002, court records say.

Mahaffy was expected to forward the money to the National Association of Public Interest Law, but the association never received the money.

Later in June 2002, $10,000 was taken from the Bank of Whitman account and placed in a Charles Schwab account that was used for hotel lodging, rental cars, airfare, gas and other personal items, according to the investigation.

Mahaffy was unresponsive to requests from Center for Justice officials to return the money to them, court records say.

“It’s $26,000 we didn’t have to do the stuff we do,” Beggs said.


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