A former Colorado National Guard Foundation volunteer has been charged with stealing more than $350,000 from a Centennial-based charity that helps struggling military families with financial assistance in the form of grants and loans.
According to court documents, Ruthann Oppenheim was arrested and charged with embezzlement May 3 in Arlington, Va.
“We’re deeply sorry this happened,” said Andrew Meverden, chairman of the foundation. “Our top priority has always been to protect the funds, and if there is one lesson we’ve learned from this, it’s that small business and charities are really quite vulnerable — you’ve really got to have strong safeguards in place.”
Oppenheim, who served a three-year term as the NGF’s treasurer, is thought to have pilfered money from not only the CNGF, but the Colorado Military Family Relief Fund as well.
Meverden said emotions among board members range from pity to outright anger.
“Right now, our only recourse is to let the legal system do its job,” he said. “And we’re hoping for full restoration and recovery of the funds.”
Meverden admits he’s not quite sure what form restoration and recovery may take.
“Now whether that comes in the form of liens on property or vehicles or something else, that’s something we’ll be relying on the legal system to help us with,” he said.
Inconsistencies with the organization’s finances surfaced more than a year ago during an internal audit, according to Meverden.
“There were just a lot of things that didn’t make sense,” he said. “Ledgers didn’t balance with bank statements, unauthorized purchases and even NGF gift cards being cashed out in Las Vegas.”
Oppenheim posted bail in Virginia and was released on personal recognizance.
Court documents show she is due back in Arlington General District Court on June 12.
According to Lisa Pinto of the Arapahoe County District Attorney's Office, Oppenheim is scheduled for a preliminary hearing in Centennial July 9.
Meverden said the plan, as he understands it, is for Oppenheim to be extradited back to Arapahoe County.
“We are resolved to recover the funds,” said Meverden. “It’s important that we have restitution so we can continue to honor the fund’s intent, and that’s to help eligible families of deployed military members.”
Fund availability to eligible service members has not been affected, said Meverden.