As if the news out of Michigan weren't grim enough, last week I saw that a bookkeeper had embezzled nearly $1M from the Ann Arbor Amateur Hockey Association (Source: The Ann Arbor News.)
Kimberly Knight had volunteered to help balance the books for the AAAHA - and who doesn't love a good volunteer. Instead, she ended up unbalancing the organization's decades-long savings, money intended to build an ice rink.
My first thought was, what's a youth hockey organization doing with $1M. But hockey is a serious pursuit in Michigan, just as it is in these parts.
One million dollars. All those years of savings. And "Midwest nice" that wouldn't assume for a New York minute that that nice lady volunteering to do the books was cooking them.
Knight - who in her mug shot closely resembles a more heavy-set version of Lorraine Bracco, the wonderful actress who played Tony Soprano's shrink, Dr. Melfi - used the money for reasons great and small. She helped out the family business by purchasing construction equipment, and she spent all kinds of money on nice little gifts for herself.
Among the items that Knight purchased: a 2005 Cadillac Escalade for her husband. (Happy birthday, honey!) And why is it that embezzlers never buy anything that's not showy? But I guess that she should get some props for buying something that's Michigan-made.)
She also treated herself to:
$3,890 for designer 14-karat white gold and diamond earrings; 21 Pandora beads and a diamond watch for nearly $2,500; $5,300 in watches and link-style bracelets; $2,853 on bracelets and 33 Pandora beads; and $5,300 on 96 Pandora beads, rings and a bracelet.
Not familiar with Pandora jewelry? Well, neither was I until I saw this story, but apparently collecting Pandora beads and designing your own bracelets and what-nots is yet again one of those quite popular trends that I miss out on entirely. Think Build-a-Bear for grown women. (The other one that I missed out on was Longaberger Baskets, which I'd never heard of until I worked for a company that had them as a client. Live and learn.)
Knight's attorney says that his client - whose own kids were involved in AAAHA at one point in time - "is remorseful."
Well, you can't eat thanks - and you can't eat remorse either.
And, I'll bet she'll be even more remorseful once she has her day in court.
While my first question was what was a kids' hockey group doing with so much money, my second one was: where was the group's Board?
I'm on two non-profit boards and, even for the piddly little $70K non-profit, we have to file forms and sign off on statements. Don't non-profits in Michigan have to submit some sort of returns? Didn't anyone, during the two years that Knight was on her Pandora spree, look at a bank statement?
I guess when it's an all-volunteer organization, it's easy to assume that everyone's on the up and up.
Especially when the group involves kids, and when the volunteer bookkeeper is someone who - for years, apparently - was associated with the group on an honest basis. Just a Midwest-nice hockey mom helping out.
I suppose when people have access to the till, it's easy to put their hand in. You tell yourself that, what with all the volunteer hours you put in, surely they can spot you a couple of Pandora beads. Especially when you think of how much they'd have to pay a real bookkeeper.
The outcome of Knight's trial will be interesting.
My guess is that, a couple of years ago, she would have gotten off with restitution and a long probation.
These days, people are a lot more pissed off.
That Escalade! Those Pandora beads! All those donations that will be so hard to replicate in a thinner economy - especially in Michigan.
My bet is that Kimberly Knight will be stamping out license plates, not stringing together another Pandora charm bracelet for herself.