Pretty-as-a-postcard Camden, Maine, is reeling after learning that prominent resident and former president of United Mid-Coast Charities, Rusty Brace, stands accused of stealing more than $3.8 million from donors who believed they we're helping neighbors in need.
"It was a very, very hurtful moment," said Stephen Crane, the new board president of the Camden.
Crane said he discovered the fraud by chance after a donor mentioned that he had recently written three checks for $75,000.
"And those checks were not there in our donor base, so that alerted me," said Crane.
When they traced the cancelled checks back to The First Bank in Camden, they discovered the money had been diverted into an account held by Brace Management Group. With that information, several board members confronted Brace.
"At the first meeting, he denied it. The second meeting, he confessed," said Crane.
The charity has now hired a crisis management company to help restore the community's faith in UMCM and answer a barrage of questions.
"Of course they had audits," said Savvy Inc. President Dennis Bailey. "In this case, there was money that they never saw."
The FBI is leading a criminal investigation and the charity has filed a civil suit in Knox County Superior Court against Brace, claiming that between 2001 and 2014, he diverted more than $3.8 million in his own business account.
The many recipient organization, including the YMCA, The Camden Public Library and the Mid-coast food pantry, on edge.
"I think the biggest victim in this embezzlement were the people that needed help in the community," said Crane.
UMCM plans to honor all its commitments for 2014. This Thursday board members plan to hand out $325,000 worth of checks personally to 50 local non-profits that rely on their continued generosity.