October 18, 2019
 
Former BCAE Executive Director, Controller Charged with Larceny

July 25, 2019 — A former executive director and a former controller of the Boston Center for Adult Education, a Boston nonprofit that provides educational opportunities for adults, pleaded innocent in superior court yesterday to larceny charges in connection with the alleged theft of $1.7 million from the organization over eight years.

Susan Brown, who joined the Boston Center for Adult Education (BCAE) as executive director in 2009, and Mark Mitchell, who Brown hired as controller in 2011, entered pleas in Suffolk Superior Court, according to a report in today's Boston Globe.

A third person, Karen Kalfian, reportedly the business partner of Brown, also pleaded guilty to a similar charge, The Globe reported.

All three are due back in court on Sept. 27, and were released on personal recognizance, the paper noted.

BCAE said Brown and Mitchell, a Saugus selectman, were both fired last fall.

Susan Getman is currently serving as interim executive director.

"More than $565,000 went to the executive director’s partner, for marketing services that did not exist, prosecutors say," The Globe reported. "Almost $900,000 in checks allegedly were written by the comptroller to himself, and more than $300,000 to groups for his personal benefit, including a youth baseball team in Saugus that he managed."

"It was a brazen job, prosecutors say, carried out by a pair of executives at the Bay Village nonprofit who allegedly falsified financial entries and lied to the board of directors, leaving them in the dark," The Globe noted. "By the time the center realized something was amiss, it had been stripped of its tax-exempt status, a humbling blow for a Boston institution whose array of classes has long served as a social and intellectual hub."

It added, "Beginning in 2009, the same year Brown was appointed executive director, payments of at least $67,000 per year were made to Kalfian. Brown allegedly created invoices on behalf of Kalfian, stating she performed various general marketing services for the company."

BCAE, through a spokesperson, today said the organization currently operates as a nonprofit corporation. Its most recently available federal tax filing, signed by Brown, reported $1.9 million in revenue and $2.2 million in expenses for the year ending June 30, 2014.

According to a report in ItemLive.com, BCAE last September hired the accounting firm of Marcum LLP to conduct a forensic examination of the organization’s books and records, including its bank accounts, which "determined that the three defendants together have stolen at least $715,000 from its bank accounts between July 11, 2016 to Sept. 13, 2018."

BCAE's board of directors, in a recent statement, noted that "important adjustments" have been made to its financial operations, including implementation of new policies and procedures and guidance on best practices in nonprofit management and governance.

Getman is also strengthening internal operations, the board said.

Upon discovering the theft last year, BCAE said it reported the matter to the district attorney's office and cooperated with it since then. In April, the board informed the BCAE community that it had terminated the former executive director and controller due to fiscal irregularities and the discovery of fraud following a financial audit.

"While this has been a challenging experience for all of us, we have a wonderful team whose professionalism and dedication enable us to continue to provide the educational opportunities for adults that we are known for," the board said.

Founded in 1933, BCAE served as a site for volunteer wartime efforts in the 1940s, and as "a haven for social policy debate in the 1960s." Today, it aims to be a resource for personal and professional growth to help meet the challenges of a thriving urban community.

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