BANGOR, Maine — A woman who was the long time office manager for a law enforcement motorcycle club has been charged with stealing more than $200,000 from the organization, according to the Penobscot County District attorney’s office.
Bessie Small, 46, of Carmel was charged last month with theft by unauthorized taking, a Class B crime, Stephen Burlock, assistant district attorney, said Tuesday.
Small, who began working for the club in 1998, came to the attention of the district attorney’s office after officers of the Blue Knights International Law Enforcement Motorcycle Club had an audit conducted last summer, Burlock said. The auditor estimated that the suspected fraud totaled $228,000.
“She was the office manager and, until 2013, authorized to write her own paycheck,” the prosecutor said. “The president, D.J. Alvarez, became suspicious and asked for copies of all the cleared checks. When she kept putting him off, he went to the bank to get them.”
Burlock said the auditor found that she wrote checks to herself that were not for hours worked, as well as for petty cash and to third parties that were deposited in her personal accounts. She allegedly wrote a check to herself in June 2012 for $8,700.
Small made her initial appearance Wednesday at the Penobscot Judicial Center. She was not asked to enter a plea because she has not yet been indicted by the Penobscot County grand jury. She was released on unsecured bail, according to the court clerk’s office.
Small is next due in court on June 6.
Terence Harrigan of Bangor was appointed to represent Small, according to Burlock. Harrigan said Tuesday that he had not yet been notified by the court of the appointment and was not yet familiar with the case.
The club is a non-profit fraternal organization made up of active and retired law enforcement officers who enjoy riding motorcycles. It was founded In 1974 by several law enforcement officers in the Bangor area, according to information posted on its website. The Blue Knights today have about 650 chapters and more than 18,800 members in 29 countries.
Bangor attorney Adria LaRose, who is representing the club, said it is cooperating with the investigation and may “initiate its own legal action against Ms. Small.”
If convicted, Small faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $20,000. She also could be ordered to pay restitution.
The statute of limitations for theft is six years, so the club may not be able to recover all the money it lost with a criminal restitution order, the prosecutor said.
Burlock did not say when the case would be presented to the grand jury. It next convenes on April 26.