Former Head of Bronx, N.Y., LGBT Center Allegedly Embezzled $338K
The former executive director for Bronx Community Pride Center, the LGBT center that serves the Bronx, N.Y., was arrested for allegedly stealing $338,000, the New York Daily News reported.
Authorities are accusing Lisa Winters, 42, of scamming the money from the center in January 2010 and using the cash to pay for vacations and a dog walker.
The center provides medical and social care to the diverse LGBT population of the Bronx, one of the five boroughs that make up New York City.
Winters, who paid $25,751.74 to Eyes on Africa for a vacation, has been fired from the non-profit group and a criminal complaint says she spent thousands of dollars on trips to the United Kingdom, the Turks and Caicos Islands and the Carolinas. Authorities also claim that she spent $15,953 on a dog walker.
Winters was arrested on June 15. She has been charged with grand larceny and 23 counts of falsifying business records after she allegedly wrote checks for her own personal expenses, which totaled $143,000. The Bronx district attorney’s office believes that she may have stolen as much as $338,000 from the center between 2005 and 2009.
The Bronx D.A. is weighing bringing more chargers against Winters, who was released without bail at her arraignment.
"Winters’ personal expenses included charges for meals at restaurants, domestic and international travel, clothes, liquor, groceries and her dog walker," the district attorney’s office alleges. The center’s employees reportedly contacted the centers board of directors to complain that Winters not only "misused funds" but was "often drunk at work."
A board member told the Daily News that they "trusted Winters and allowed her to set the agenda and direct board meetings."
Back in October 2009, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg named Winters one of 25 civic leaders to join the Commission for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning Runaway and Homeless Youth.
Unfortunately, this is far from the first time a member of the community has been accused of taking badly needed funds from an LGBT organization and using it for frivolous personal expenses.
In January, a Seattle Superior Court Judge ruled against Mo Malkin, the executive director for Verbena Health, an LGBT health center, for embezzlement. Malkin had to pay Verbena $80,000 plus $32,114 in interest.
Nor is this even the first time someone has been accused of using an LGBT center as a private cash box. Nicholas Rice-Sanchez, a former volunteer secretary and treasurer from San Jose’s Billy DeFrank LGBT Community Center, was accused of embezzling nearly $40,000 from the non-profit organization. He pleaded no contest to a single felony charge in May 2011.
In 2009, Phyllis Stevens was accused of embezzling nearly $6 million from the Iowa branch of Marriage Equality USA, which she then headed. In a strange twist, Stevens reportedly donated some of the loot in turn to some of her own pet candidates and causes, including Hilary Clinton, Barack Obama and MoveOn.org.
In another case of a New York lesbian taking funds from a non-profit for extravagant vacations and other luxuries, Yaasmin Hooey, a local Girl Scout executive, was arrested for embezzling more than $311,000 in December 2011. Hooey allegedly used the money to fund fun stuff such as a $13,000 diamond ring, cosmetic surgery and cruises.