Syracuse, NY – The former executive director of a Syracuse charity and her husband have been accused of taking nearly $1 million from the organization they founded and trying to cover up the theft, according to the state attorney general’s office.
Shirley Goddard, 75, who served as president and CEO of the Humanitarian Organization for Multicultural Experience (HOME), stole money intended to help people with developmental disabilities in the Syracuse area between 2012 and 2018 , New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a news release on Friday.
Her husband, Tyrone Goddard, 75, served as chairman of the organization’s board of directors during that time, according to a lawsuit filed by the AG’s office.
The DeWitt couple, who founded HOME in 1992, left the organization in 2018 after the theft was discovered, according to the lawsuit. Shirley Goddard was fired; Tyrone Goddard has resigned.
Shirley Goddard received $204,764 in salary and compensation from HOME in 2017, the last full year she was employed as CEO, according to the charity’s 2017 IRS Form 990.
The state claims she used her leadership position with the organization to forge loans to clients, manipulate expense reimbursements and take overpayments from her salary. Through unauthorized phone transfers, cash withdrawals and ATM transactions, she embezzled nearly $1 million, according to the state.
She was also accused of repeatedly using the organization’s accounts to make ATM withdrawals at the Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona and other casinos, according to the lawsuit.
Shirley Goddard used the organization’s debit card to make unauthorized personal purchases at Best Buy, Verizon Wireless and at the Destiny USA Mall in Syracuse, the lawsuit alleges. There is no evidence that any of these purchases were made for legitimate business purposes, or that anyone other than Shirley Goddard made these purchases, according to the state.
Her husband learned of the embezzlement in 2013, but rather than take action to stop it, he helped his wife cover it up, state officials charge.
The couple falsely claimed the missing money from HOME’s accounts was due to mistakes made by the organization’s bank, Bank of America, which they said was investigating the matter, the lawsuit says.
They would also periodically make payments to HOME accounts to make it look like the bank was correcting errors, according to the lawsuit.
Shirley Goddard was also accused of creating fake letters from the bank that purported to support the investigation into the banking error, according to the lawsuit. She also forged bank statements and provided them to state investigators.
The couple further misled the organization’s board of directors and external auditors by claiming that they had gone to the bank to resolve the issue and that the bank would refund the missing money, according to the lawsuit.
The embezzlement was uncovered in May 2018, when the state Office for Persons with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) referred the matter to the AG’s office after an audit revealed financial irregularities and suspicion of stealing money from the organization.
The GA office is asking for a full refund of the money from HOME. The exact amount will be determined at trial, but is currently estimated to be between $650,000 and $900,000.
The AG’s office is also asking that Shirley and Tyrone Goddard be barred from playing a fiduciary role in any state charity or nonprofit.
A spokesman for the AG’s office said the matter was a civil matter and the couple had not been charged criminally. The survey was conducted by the Charities Office, part of the Social Justice Division.
The state said in the lawsuit that “his misconduct left HOME on the brink of insolvency.”
Syracuse.com | The Post-Standard has reached out to the Goddards and Shaneika Ford, the current executive director of HOME for comment.
HOME employs 60 people and typically receives state payments of about $3 million each year, according to the lawsuit.
Over the years, Shirley Goddard has been honored for her work by several community organizations. In 2002, she was one of 10 people to receive the Post-Standard Person of Achievement award.
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