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Ex-Red Cross director accused of embezzlement

April 06, 2007|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. ? The former executive director of the Berkeley County chapter of the American Red Cross has been accused of stealing more than $14,000 from the organization, according to Berkeley County Magistrate Court records.

Jonathon A. Jarrell, 42, of 519 West Virginia Ave. in Martinsburg, was arraigned Friday on one felony count of embezzlement, which was filed against him by West Virginia State Police Trooper J.M. Walker, according to court records.

Walker said Friday the matter still was under investigation after Magistrate Joan V. Bragg earlier set a $10,000 personal recognizance bond in an arraignment hearing for Jarrell.

Jarrell voluntarily resigned on July 5, 2006, and Walker said in his complaint that he was contacted by the chairman of the Red Cross chapter's board of directors on Jan. 31 about discrepancies in the agency's accounting records.

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Jarrell's replacement, Karen Sumner, confirmed Friday that the organization conducted an internal investigation after a record review revealed Jarrell allegedly received five extra paychecks between August 2004 and December 2005.

The duplicate paychecks amounted to $6,115.99, Walker said.

Sumner also told Walker about apparent discrepancies in the agency's gift-wrapping fundraiser revenue logs. Walker later noted shortfalls in logs for Christmas 2004 ($2,100), Valentine's Day and Mothers Day 2005 ($1,114), Christmas 2005 ($3,352.28), Valentine's Day 2006 ($890) and Mothers Day 2006 ($194).

Walker also identified two checks that were reallocated from the general contribution account to the gift-wrapping account. The first check was designated for meals, and the other was for hurricane relief, Walker said.

Sumner also provided police with credit card statements that included several unauthorized purchases, including four cash advances amounting to $820, Walker said.

"... Mr. Jarrell (later) indicated two of the cash advances were business related and he accidentally took the remaining cash advances, indicating he must have taken the wrong credit card from his wallet," Walker said.

The trooper said that Jarrell provided a statement to police on March 28 indicating he wrote himself "early" paychecks on several occasions with the intent of not accepting a paycheck at a later date, but apparently failed to repay five of them.

Regarding the gift-wrapping revenue, Walker said Jarrell indicated he initially intended to repay the Red Cross for money he took for personal use beginning with funds collected during the Christmas 2003 season, but never did.

After an audit failed to detect the embezzlement, Walker said Jarrell told police he was "no longer concerned that he would get caught ..."

Walker said Jarrell didn't know how much gift-wrapping money he embezzled when the trooper asked him. As for the credit card charges, Walker said Jarrell's statement indicated the transactions were accidental or work-related, and believed he repaid the organization.

Sumner said Friday that the Red Cross would seek restitution for the money that was stolen.

"My goal is to grow this chapter and overcome this obstacle during this difficult time," said Sumner, who was appointed as executive director on March 12 after serving as interim executive director since July 2006. "Hopefully, (the community) understands this is one individual, that we are going to continue our mission."

Aside from the pending criminal allegations, the disaster-relief organization is pressed to find a new location for its offices, which now are in a building off East King and Spring streets that will be sold this year by the Berkeley County Commission.

"We're sitting here kind of in limbo," Sumner said.

The county has provided space for the chapter since 1976, but a plan to provide the Red Cross with new space in the county-owned building at 110 W. King St. has been complicated by a lack of restrooms and security concerns, county commissioners said Thursday.

"We still would like to accommodate the Red Cross, but I'm not sure it is the best place," Commissioner William "Bill" Stubblefield said Friday.

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