- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 5, 2002

A former Goodwill Industries worker yesterday pleaded guilty in federal court to charges of embezzling more than $190,000 from the international charity from 1999 to 2001.
In U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Marlene Dark somberly answered "yes" when a judge asked if she understood her guilty plea is an admission that she repeatedly withdrew checks from an account held by Goodwill Industries International and fraudulently signed them over to a personal bank account in Virginia.
Dark, of Upper Marlboro, averted her eyes when approached by a reporter outside the courtroom after the plea hearing on the 10th floor of the Albert V. Bryan federal courthouse. "We have no comment," said her attorney, Geremy C. Kamens, before hustling Dark into an elevator.
Dark, 52, remains free on bond until her sentencing, scheduled for Feb. 14 in Alexandria.
Under the terms of the plea agreement she faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, a fine of $250,000 and payment of $92,000 in restitution to Goodwill. She admitted guilt to six counts of wire fraud and eight counts of transporting stolen securities.
Goodwill officials said the guilty plea brought closure to a case that could have marred the charity's reputation.
"We are satisfied that Ms. Dark has admitted guilt and believe that justice has and will be served," said Goodwill spokeswoman Christine Nyirjesy Bragale. "We have taken this matter very seriously and have instituted a number of changes in our processes to continue to protect our assets."
Dark told U.S. District Judge James C. Cacheris that she recently began visiting a psychiatrist to deal with depression.
"He just said I'm fine; I just needed someone to talk to," Dark told the judge.
Goodwill officials said Dark worked as an accounting supervisor at the Bethesda-based association from February 1999 to June 2001. During that time she "made in excess of $190,000 of unauthorized withdrawals from the accounts of Goodwill Industries," according to an indictment handed down by a federal grand jury in October.
Court papers indicate she deposited the checks into a federal credit union account in Vienna, Va., and "used the monies for personal expenses and payments."
Mrs. Bragale said Goodwill fired Dark in June 2001 after officials doing routine accounting checks noticed irregularities in bookkeeping. "We immediately contacted the Montgomery County police, who referred the case to the FBI," she said.
FBI agents investigating the bookkeeping discrepancies found that on repeated occasions Dark altered checks by removing the names of genuine payees and substituting the letters "GWC," according to court papers.
Federal prosecutors, led by U.S. Attorney Paul J. McNulty, said Dark falsely endorsed the checks with the letters "GWC" before depositing them into her credit union account under the name "GWC," which she had listed on the account as her brother.
Founded in 1902, Goodwill is one the world's largest nonprofit charities. While it is most widely known for its used-clothing stores, representatives say the charity's goal is to provide job training and employment services to people with workplace disadvantages and disabilities.
The Goodwill facility where Mrs. Dark was employed has an annual budget of about $20 million. Mrs. Bragale said the funds stolen by Dark consisted of dues payments made to Goodwill International by other Goodwill member agencies.
"This criminal activity did not affect donations from the public, nor the human services funded by them," she said.

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