On November 21, 2011, in Bridgeport, Conn., Donna Gregor, of East Hartford, was sentenced to 42 months in prison and three years of supervised release, for embezzling more than $1 million from the Mark Twain House & Museum. On August 5, 2011, Gregor waived her right to indictment and pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of filing a false tax return. According to court documents and statements made in court, between 2002 and 2010, Gregor employed two different schemes to defraud the Mark Twain House. In the first scheme, Gregor submitted false information via the Internet to the Mark Twain House’s payroll management vendor in order to receive, as a direct deposit in her personal bank account, an additional amount of pay to which she was not entitled. Gregor then adjusted the general ledger to hide the payroll advances by reclassifying the amounts as utilities, maintenance, and similar items. Gregor also falsified the Mark Twain House’s bank statements to hide the advances. In the second scheme, Gregor used the Mark Twain House’s check-writing system to write checks payable to herself, forged the signature of her supervisors on those checks, and deposited those funds in her personal bank account. Again adjusting journal entries in the general ledger and falsifying the bank statements in order to hide the fraudulently prepared checks. Through these schemes, Gregor embezzled approximately $1,080,811 from the Mark Twain House. Gregor also failed to pay federal taxes on the funds that she embezzled. For the 2002 through 2010 tax years, this resulted in an underpayment of approximately $323,480 to the Internal Revenue Service. Gregor was also ordered to pay restitution to the Mark Twain House and to the insurance company that has paid the Mark Twain House $500,000 as a result of the loss, in addition to $323,480 to the IRS.
I’m very sorry to hear this happened to this great historic site, especially when it was already teetering on the edge of bankruptcy due to an extravagant visitor center (the nation’s first LEED-certified museum and visitor center–a clear example that environmental sustainability is not the same as financial sustainability). If you’re not familiar with this case of embezzlement, it’s a good reminder to have a system of checks and balances for your finances, even if you have annual independent audits and trust your staff. More on this story can be found in the CTPost.com and Hartford Courant.