Former President Indicted on Charge of Stealing $2,500 from School Association

By Michael Deak
Home News Tribune

July 31, 2008

NORTH PLAINFIELD —The former president of St. Joseph School's Home and School Association in North Plainfield has been indicted on a charge of theft following an investigation that revealed more than $2,500 in cash donations were stolen from four school-sponsored events, including an entertainment book fundraiser and a theater field trip.

Gretchen Lee, 37, of Malcolm Avenue, was indicted this week by a Somerset County grand jury.

The charge followed an investigation that began in late March, when Somerset County detectives met with the Diocese of Metuchen's finance director, who alerted authorities that Lee was a suspect in a continuing probe into incidents of theft from the Home and School Association, authorities said.

After attempting to resolve the matter internally, school officials asked a former Home and School Association president and treasurer to audit the association's finances.

A January report "highlighted the extent of the missing cash from the various fundraising events" from October 2007 through February 2008 that were under Lee's control, authorities said in a statement.

Police said that during the fundraisers Lee collected cash and check donations before turning over the checks to the association's treasurer. In each instance, she kept cash for her "personal use," authorities said.

Lee kept $1,276.82 from a fundraiser through Innisbrook, a North Carolina company that partners with schools to help them raise money by providing products to sell, such as gift wrapping and gourmet foods, authorities allege.

Authorities said Lee skimmed $863 from a total collection of $1,947 that parents raised to fund a December 2007 field trip to a theater for students in grades K-8, police said.

In the same month, the school sponsored an entertainment coupon book fundraiser. Of the $600 collected in cash and checks, Lee retained $135 in cash for her personal use, authorities said.

Police also cited an instance when Lee received a $1,400 cash advance to buy $350 gifts for four school referees. Lee kept 25 percent of the advance for herself, authorities said.

Lee, who is free on bail, surrendered to authorities June 13.


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