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Former Red Cross worker charged with embezzling agency's funds

May 24, 2010|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. -- A former American Red Cross worker is accused of embezzling more than $30,000 from the Eastern Panhandle chapter of the agency, according to Berkeley County Magistrate Court records.

Samuel Kristofer Bunner, 37, of 223 Brilliant Stone Drive, Martinsburg, was charged with 87 felony counts of fraudulent use of a credit card, according to an arrest warrant issued by Magistrate W. Randy Smith.

A complaint filed in magistrate court by West Virginia State Police Cpl. J.M. Walker alleges Bunner "cashed out" prepaid debit cards between August 2009 and February 2010 that were supposed to be given to disaster victims.

The incidents were concealed with fictitious documentation of victims who did not exist and natural disasters that did not occur, according to court records.

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The alleged theft was discovered after Bunner was let go from his job at the agency's Martinsburg office at 155 N. Queen St. in February, according court records.

Bunner, who was the director of emergency services for the agency, told police he worked for the Red Cross for more than three years, according to court records.

When questioned, Bunner told police that he stole the money because he had a gambling problem, according to court records.

Eastern Panhandle chapter Executive Director Amy Grove told police that Bunner was authorized to issue the prepaid debit cards to victims of natural disasters, as well as "load" the cards with Red Cross money and activate them through an online system, according to court records.

"Mr. Bunner stated he would prepare a (client assistant card) authorization form under a random identity" and then sign the form, authorizing the card's activation, Walker said in his complaint filed with the court. After activating the card, he would cash the card out, according to court records.

Most of the $30,233.71 in illicit transactions documented in Walker's complaint are ATM cash withdrawals, with several amounting to $400 or more, according to court records. They include Martinsburg-area locations of M&T Bank, Centra Bank, Susquehanna and Summit Community Bank, and 7-Eleven and Sheetz convenience stores, according to court records.

Walmart stores in Spring Mills and Martinsburg, Food Lion at Old Courthouse Square and the Martinsburg Mall were among locations where debit card purchases were made with the Red Cross' money, according to court records.

The credit card fraud case involving Bunner comes a little more than two years after the former executive director of the Berkeley County chapter of the Red Cross was sentenced in May 2008 for embezzling more than $12,000.

Jonathon A. Jarrell, who resigned in 2006, received extra paychecks and police also verified discrepancies in records that documented revenue collected from gift-wrapping activities, according to court records.

In 2007, the Berkeley County chapter of the Red Cross merged with the chapter for Jefferson and Morgan counties to form the Eastern Panhandle group.

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