- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 10, 2002

A former Goodwill Industries worker accused of embezzling more than $190,000 pleaded not guilty to six counts of wire fraud and eight counts of transporting stolen securities yesterday in U.S. District Court in Alexandria.
Marlene Dark, 52, of Upper Marlboro is charged with withdrawing checks from an account held by Bethesda-based Goodwill Industries International and fraudulently signing them over to a personal bank account in Virginia.
She declined to comment yesterday after appearing beside a public defender at her arraignment in federal court. Judge James C. Cacheris set the trial date for Dec. 9.
Each charge of transporting stolen securities carries a maximum sentence of 10 years and a $250,000 fine. Charges of mail fraud carry a maximum sentence of five years each and a $250,000 fine.
If convicted of all charges, Mrs. Dark would face a maximum penalty of 110 years in prison and a $3.5 million fine. Court sources said she would face a significantly lesser penalty under federal sentencing guidelines.
Goodwill officials said Mrs. Dark worked as an accounting supervisor at the Bethesda 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 up last week by a federal grand jury.
The indictment charges that Mrs. Dark deposited the checks into a federal credit union account in Vienna, Va., and "used the monies for personal expenses and payments."
"We're shocked and disappointed that someone would allegedly steal from our charity," Goodwill spokeswoman Christine Nyirjesy Bragale said this week.
Mrs. Bragale said Goodwill fired Mrs. Dark in June 2001 after officials doing routine accounting checks "noticed irregularities" in the bookkeeping at the Bethesda association. "We immediately contacted the Montgomery County police, who referred the case to the FBI," she said.
The FBI has declined to comment on the case, but according to court papers, agents investigating the bookkeeping discrepancies found that on repeated occasions Mrs. Dark altered checks by "removing" the names of genuine payees and substituting them with the letters "GWC."
Federal prosecutors, led by U.S. Attorney Paul J. McNulty, say Mrs. 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.
Mrs. Bragale said the "alleged criminal activity did not affect donations from the public nor did it affect human services funded by those donations."
The Bethesda-based Goodwill, where Mrs. Dark was employed, has an annual budget of about $20 million, Mr. Bragale said. "We appreciate very much the good work of the FBI and that the authorities acted quickly after we contacted them and conducted a full investigation," she said.


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