Hunger Free VT says bookkeeper embezzled
MONTPELIER — A bookkeeper for a major Vermont nonprofit is under investigation for embezzlement, according to the organization's top executive.
Hunger Free Vermont executive director Marissa Parisi said Tuesday that the organization believes that the employee may have been embezzling funds for years. The full extent is not yet clear, but she said that the total amount could be significant.
"We actually think the loss could be in the hundreds of thousands," Parisi said.
Parisi said the case is under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigations. The FBI would neither confirm nor deny an investigation is under way, as is their policy. Parisi would not identify the employee, who she said has been terminated.
Parisi was alerted to the alleged embezzlement four weeks ago when the local bank contacted her about suspicious activity in the organization's checking account.
Hunger Free Vermont typically keeps four months worth of reserve funds on hand, which Parisi and the board believed was fully funded. "When we discovered the issue, we realized that was not the case," Parisi said.
"We're lucky that we will be able to continue all of our programs but not having our reserve fund is scary for us," Parisi said.
The individual was fired after the discrepancies were discovered, Parisi said. The organization alerted law enforcement, and is cooperating with federal investigators to determine the extent of the embezzlement.
According to Parisi, the bookkeeper has worked at Hunger Free Vermont for 11 years. The organization, based in South Burlington, has an annual budget of slightly more than $1 million. There are 15 employees.
Parisi said she has reached out to major donors to the organization to notify them of the situation.
Hunger Free Vermont works statewide running nutritional assistance programs for children, families and vulnerable Vermonters. Its mission is "to end the injustice of hunger and malnutrition for all Vermonters."
"We just want to make sure that this issue, this crime that's been committed against us doesn't derail our programs," Parisi said.
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