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Fairbanks hospital foundation employee accused of embezzlement

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Posted: Saturday, February 2, 2013 12:00 am

FAIRBANKS — A longtime Greater Fairbanks Community Hospital Foundation employee was charged this week with embezzling more than $12,000 from the nonprofit organization that owns Fairbanks Memorial Hospital.

Shelly Lee Comried, 40, is accused of linking her personal bank account to a PayPal Internet-based payment account that the foundation uses to receive charitable donations, according to a criminal complaint filed in court. Comried, who worked as an administrative assistant before the alleged embezzlement came to light, was issued a court summons to face a charge of second-degree felony theft.

Foundation President Jeff Cook said Friday that the board’s leadership became aware of the missing money in December when Comried’s supervisor, foundation Executive Director and General Counsel Shelley Ebenal, noticed deposits were missing from regular donors. After an internal investigation, Comried was confronted about the money and gave a tearful confession, Cook said.  

The foundation’s executive board met in early January and decided to pursue criminal charges against Comried. They decided to go to the police both because of their fiduciary responsibilities to the foundation and out of concern for other nonprofits vulnerable to embezzlement through PayPal accounts, Cook said.

“We thought we had excellent controls, but even our auditor missed it,” Cook said.

Cook contacted the News-Miner about the incident before the newspaper obtained the criminal complaint. The complaint was released Friday.

Fairbanks police received a search warrant for Comried’s bank account in January and determined she stole $12,788.38 from the foundation. Comried also confessed in a police interview, saying she took the money to put her life back together, according to the criminal complaint against her.

The foundation, and not individual donors, will take a loss from the theft, Cook said. The foundation is sending out a letter explaining the situation to all its donors, he said.

“Everybody who donated has got full credit. Nobody is out any contribution to the foundation. The foundation’s out that money, and there’ll be a restitution agreement (although) we don’t have any high hopes that we’ll ever recover that,” he said.

The hospital foundation has since changed its policies for PayPal donations. The foundation now requires two people to process a PayPal donation, much like the policy that already existed for other donations, he said.

The Greater Fairbanks Community Hospital Foundation was founded in 1968. It owns the Fairbanks Memorial Hospital and the Tanana Valley Clinic, both of which are managed by Banner Health.

Contact staff writer Sam Friedman at 459-7545. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMcrime.

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