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March 25, 2004

Star Tribune

Renitta Jones, former accounting manager for the Twin Cities choral ensemble VocalEssence, pleaded guilty Wednesday in Hennepin County District Court to three counts of theft by swindle, and in a separate case to obtaining false credit. Under the terms of her plea, Jones will be sentenced April 28 to serve 45 months in prison. She also must pay an undetermined amount of restitution to VocalEssence, a 32-year-old nonprofit organization with an annual budget of $1.4 million.

Jones was fired in February 2003 after the discovery of abuses dating to August 2001 and totaling nearly $150,000, less than 10 percent of which was covered by insurance. Mary Ann Pulk, managing director for VocalEssence since shortly before Jones' embezzlement was revealed, has since put several new financial-management checks and balances into place, including tightening the number of employees allowed to sign checks or use company credit cards, and increasing the number who open mail and make bank deposits.

"Much as we don't want to be in the spotlight over this, we also don't want it to happen to any other organization," Pulk said. "The biggest lesson we learned is that you can't fall back on the excuse that you only have a few staff. That means you have to be all the more diligent in making sure you're protected."

Posted by acapnews at March 25, 2004 8:45 AM

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