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Framingham man stole $780,000 from Harvard's Hillel

Posted by Katrina Ballard  September 13, 2010 03:27 PM

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A Framingham man was sentenced to state prison Friday for stealing over $780,000 from Harvard Hillel while he was handling the nonprofit’s books through a financial management firm, according to the attorney general’s office.

William O’Brien, 58, pleaded guilty in Middlesex Superior Court in Woburn Thursday to three counts of larceny over $250 and one count each of forgery and making false entries in corporate books. He was sentenced to two to three years in state prison to be followed by ten years of probation.

O’Brien also was ordered to pay $783,489 in restitution. He could not be immediately reached for comment.

The attorney general's office said that O'Brien stole the money from 2003 to 2008.

Harvard Hillel, a religious nonprofit organization, reported to the attorney general in 2008 that O’Brien had been diverting funds for his personal use . The director of Hillel conducted an internal investigation after he had received a phone call from American Express stating the nonprofit’s account had not been paid and would be closed.

The organization could not be immediately reached for comment.

An investigation by the attorney general’s office confirmed O’Brien had used Hillel’s checks to pay his own American Express account. He also used the organization’s checks to divert funds to his own accounts.

The attorney general's office said O’Brien forged signatures on the checks or obtained authorized signatures for organization officials by implying the checks were for Hillel’s expenses. He falsified entries in the Hillel books and changed the names of check recipients.

O’Brien used the stolen money, totaling about $780,000, for personal use, such as travel and sporting events.

The defendant was assigned to handle accounting and bill paying for Hillel through a financial management firm he began working for in 2003. The firm, whose name the attorney general's office did not release, had been working for Hillel since 2000.

While working for the firm, O’Brien was not allowed to sign checks from Hillel, rather he was responsible for preparing checks to be signed and documenting the payments.

A Middlesex Grand Jury indicted O’Brien in July 2009, followed by superdeing indictments from a Middlesex Grand Jury in February 2010.

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