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October 20, 2003

Renitta Jones, former accounting manager for VocalEssence, has been charged with embezzling nearly $150,000 from the Minneapolis choral-music ensemble between August 2001 and February 2003. Jones, who appeared voluntarily Friday in Hennepin County District Court, was arraigned on 10 felony counts, seven of theft by swindle or credit-card fraud using VocalEssence funds.

Jones wrote company checks to herself and friends, used a company credit card to pay personal debts and buy a Rolex watch, according to charges. She also opened a company credit card account in her name without authorization, charges said. The additional three counts involve fraudulent financing of a $58,000 Cadillac Escalade sport-utility vehicle from Anderson Cadillac of Golden Valley in February, under the alias Renitta Hervey.

Mary Ann Pulk, managing director of VocalEssence for the past eight months, said no background check had been performed on Jones before her hiring in May 2001. She had been charged with check forgery in Hennepin County in June 1995. "Since all of this unfolded we have instituted new procedures including background checks and cash management safeguards," Pulk said. VocalEssence, which has an annual budget of $1.3 million, has received insurance settlements covering part of the loss.

"This is a significant amount, but we see some that are a lot higher in embezzlement cases for organizations of this size or smaller in both the private and nonprofit sectors," said Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar. "The defendant was in a position of trust, which she used to commit the crime and to cover it up." Jones was released with no bail. Her next court appearance will be Oct. 30.

Posted by acapnews at October 20, 2003 11:55 AM


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