April 12, 2007 in Idaho

Ex-CASA head indicted in thefts

Taryn Brodwater Staff writer
 

A federal grand jury has indicted the former head of North Idaho’s Court Appointed Special Advocates program for allegedly stealing about $2,400 from the nonprofit group’s coffers and lying to a federal agent.

Rhonda Naylor, also known as Rhonda Richardson, allegedly told an FBI agent that she had purchased more than $200 worth of clothing at CJ Banks for a young CASA client who was “extremely heavy” and “had self-esteem problems.” Naylor actually bought the clothes for herself, the grand jury found.

Naylor resigned as executive director of CASA in 2004 after allegations of embezzlement and financial mismanagement were levied against her. An audit revealed about $60,000 was missing or mismanaged during her tenure.

“I’m really happy that they finally issued the indictment,” said Jim Elder, a member of CASA’s board of directors. “She nearly destroyed the CASA program.”

The federal indictment only addresses a portion of the missing funds. Naylor is charged with 19 counts of wire fraud for allegedly using CASA’s debit card and withdrawing funds from the nonprofit’s bank account 19 times.

Naylor allegedly spent $2,375 of CASA’s funds at stores that included Nordstrom, World Market, Fred Meyer and TJ Maxx. Purchases from Southwest Airlines, the U.S. Postal Service and gas stations and restaurants are also listed in the indictment.

“We were aware of the audit results,” said Jean McNeil, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boise. “In general – and I’m speaking broadly, but it applies to this case just as it applies to every other case – we only charge what we feel we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt. And sometimes what an audit may find and what we feel is provable are two different things.”

Naylor’s attorney, Federal Public Defender Richard Rubin in Boise, declined comment. Attempts to reach Naylor, who reportedly moved to the Portland area, were unsuccessful.

The missing funds brought a financial crisis upon CASA, which trains advocates to represent the interests of abused and neglected children in court.

Elder said the CASA program had no money for eight weeks. During that time, all the employees worked for free and not a single court appearance was missed, he said.

CASA has recovered in the past three years, and Elder said he’s concerned news of Naylor’s indictment will affect giving to the program. A fundraising breakfast is planned for this month.

“The CASA program survived and it’s doing well,” he said.

Naylor could face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each count of wire fraud if convicted. For allegedly lying to a federal agent, she could be sentenced to up to five years in prison and fined an additional $250,000.

Staff writer Scott Maben contributed to this report.

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