A Cumberland County woman who embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars from a Veterans of Foreign Wars post will have to repay the money, a judge recently ordered.
Karen Lentz, 58, of Newville, will have to serve five years of probation and pay a total of $433,389.87 in restitution for stealing money while she was manager of Hamilton-Myers VFW Post 6070. Lentz will have to also pay a $200 fine.
Lentz used her position, which she held from 2007 to 2018, to steal that money and more from the VFW position, according to court records. In addition to the criminal charges, the VFW has filed a civil lawsuit against Lentz and two former elected members of the VFW board, claiming they mismanaged the post office’s finances and ripped off its small games of chance. , among others.
It looked like Lentz would be ordered to repay just $130,000 last October, after pleading no contest, acknowledging that the state had enough evidence to convict her. However, the post’s former commander, Donald Flagle, said that amount did not take into account the results of a $15,000 forensic audit which indicated $258,000 was stolen from the post in 2016.
The amount increased by $55,000 when auditors calculated how much money was missing in 2017 and 2018. The criminal statute of limitations would not allow the VFW post to seek restitution for thefts prior to 2016.
“We were very grateful that the judge took the time to allow us to show the evidence and work around this issue,” Flagle said. “It’s a big weight on my shoulders. I really appreciated that the court and the prosecutor’s office worked with the VFW to get the restitution figures we felt were right to be reimbursed.
In total, Lentz will pay $130,000 to Erie Insurance for the money the company donated to the post, and $303,389.87 to Hamilton-Myers VFW Post 6070.
The VFW proceeds in Cumberland County Civil Court to attempt to obtain the remainder which was barred by criminal statutes of limitations, naming Lentz as well as former post commander William Morrow and former quartermaster Ray Swartz Jr. of the post, as defendants.
Morrow and Swartz, were responsible for overseeing the position’s finances, but turned a blind eye to Lentz’s embezzlement, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit claimed they knew Lentz was pocketing money herself and allowed it to happen, and signed hundreds of checks in advance for Lentz to do as she pleased with them.
The lawsuit further claims that Lentz and Morrow rigged the VFW Canteen games of chance to win them. While Lentz reported that the VFW donated some of the gambling revenue, as it should, the lawsuit also claims the money is unaccounted for.
Additionally, the lawsuit said Lentz rigged small games to ensure she won. Also, while she deposited the 40% of the house’s income in small games at home, the remaining 60% of the income that was to be donated to a non-profit organization is not accounted for, the VFW, has indicated the trial.
At one point, Flagle located several envelopes hidden among Lentz’s other personal effects, according to the lawsuit. The envelopes were marked “car payment” or “TV payment”. She also used VFW funds to make personal purchases, in one case buying a brand new lawnmower for the VFW and then replacing it with an older model from her home, the lawsuit alleges.
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