Daytona Beach, FL – The granddaughter of Mary McLeod Bethune pleads no contest to charges including fraud and theft.
Court documents show that 66-year-old Evelyn Bethune, granddaughter of the founder of Bethune-Cookman University, pleaded no contest today (January 16th) to three charges including organizing a scheme to defraud and two counts of grand theft, totaling over $20,000.
She’s facing up to 25 years in prison when she’s sentenced on March 26th.
Documents show that the Daytona Beach Police Department were first tipped off about the embezzlement back on February 8th of last year, involving the Daytona Branch of the National League of American Pen Women, a non-profit that helps university students.
They were told that Bethune, who was the elected treasurer of the NLAPW, requested back in May of 2016 that the funds the organization had in their account be moved to an account at a Fifth Third Bank in Daytona Beach, as it would be easier to manage.
That request was approved by the organization.
The reporting party said that they advised Bethune that they be put on the accounts as well since she was the acting president of the Daytona NLAPW Branch.
On February 2nd, 2018, she went to the Fifth Third Bank to get access to their accounts and found that the funds were missing, according to the treasure reports she receives from Bethune.
Bethune had told her that she deposited $3,091.94 into the organizations checking account and $2,895.95 into their savings account. Bank reports would contradict that, showing that Bethune used the debit card associated with each account for personal transactions such as restaurant charges, gas and doctor bills among other personal charges.
She then reported that the accounts did not match the “bogus” financial reports Bethune had been giving to members, stating she had opened a checking account by June of 2016.
But reports show that a checking account was not opened until September of 2017.
She also said they do not know where the money from the CD at a Bank of America account has gone. She reported that Bethune told them it was cashed out and a new CD was established at State Farm Bank.
That CD was in the amount of $10,082.90, said to have been donated to the NLAPW in Daytona from a deceased member.
The reporting party then supplied the Daytona Beach Police Department with statements from Fifth Third Bank which showed a savings account opened in June of 2016 and a checking account opened in September of 2017.
Records showed multiple transfers from four other accounts within Fifth Third Bank.
Further review of the accounts by DBPD show multiple unauthorized purchases, transfers and withdrawals.
The report shows four online transfers to the BCU account, multiple withdrawals and debit card purchases that include Bethune Cookman, online purchases, gas, Target purchases, Delta purchases, Publix, Progressive and others.
DBPD also found that a GoFundMe account had also been opened in NLAPW’s name. The account was named the “NLAPW Saving Out Pen Arts Building,” and was created back in June of 2016.
After getting in contact with GoFundMe, they found that the Campaign Organizer was listed being the president of the national branch of the NLAPW and the beneficiary being listed as Bethune.
Upon speaking with the national NLAPW president, they found that Evelyn Bethune was the caretake of the account and had access to all the money donated to the account.
DBPD then found the accounts transaction log which showed 19 transfers that were all withdrawn and transferred to the BCU benefit account. The report says these funds should have never been transferred to any other bank account unless it was to the NLAPW.
Another 10 transfers were found to have been put into the Daytona NLAPW, and another 7 into the national account for the NLAPW.
Per the report, they found the total funds raised by the GoFundMe account totaled $5,918. The total being withdrawn by Evelyn Bethune was $5,432.07.
Bethune temporarily deprived these funds from the national branch of the NLAPW, and didn’t give the funds back until she was confronted by the president about a year later.
Reports show that after the funds had come to the attention of the NLAPW’s board, Bethune wrote several emails advising that the money had been frozen in the Bethune Cookman endowment funds and she planned to pay it back when the funds unfreeze.
Bank statements would show that’s not where the funds went and Bethune had deprived the organization of their funds.
The report also shows that the Daytona chapter of the NLAPW was on the verge of shutting down due to their funds being depleted by Bethune.
On March 8th, 2018, Bethune had made an email asking for impunity if she paid the money back by December of 2018.
According to the documents, the NLAPW does not believe Bethune will give the funds back, therefore they pressed charges.
An arrest warrant was filed against Bethune on April 18th, 2018. She was taken in that same day, processed at the Volusia County Jail.