A Norwalk man accused of skimming more than $100,000 from a local fraternal organization made his first appearance Monday in Huron County Common Pleas Court.
Gerald R. Weisenberger, 66, of 25 E. Washington St., Apt. B., was the treasurer/secretary for the Norwalk Knights of Columbus Home Association for 21 years. He is charged with two counts of theft and one charge of securing writings by deception in connection with incidents between 2006 through 2011.
If convicted, Weisenberger faces six to 18 months behind bars on each of the fourth-degree felonies. The defendant, who remains out on bond, has no prior felony convictions.
"He's clean coming into this case," Huron County Public Defender David Longo said, referring to the suspect's criminal record.
Weisenberger appeared before Judge Jim Conway on a summons Monday. Judge Thomas Pokorny has been assigned to the case due to a conflict of interest.
"I took myself off the case because I am a member of the Knights of Columbus and that's where the alleged theft occurred," Conway told the Reflector.
Knights representatives reported the allegations to the Norwalk Police Department in June.
Weisenberger reportedly skimmed more than $100,000 from the home association, based on a review of financial records, current Knights treasurer/secretary John Evans has said. The association handles the bills for the Knights.
The situation reportedly started with the Knights selling the property at 254 W. Main St. nearly eight years ago.
"We sold the building we were in for many years and now we rent (there)," said Evans, who took over as treasurer/secretary about April. "The group continues to rent its space and hold meetings with a 10-year lease at $1 per year."
The Knights sold the building and grounds Sept. 7, 2005 for more than $150,000 with a down payment of $50,000, which included an agreement of $25,000 each year plus interest.
As part of the sale agreement, the new owners agreed to spend an additional $50,000 for improvements to repair the parking lot, roof and upgrade the utilities. Also, local Knights council members approved the sale and purchase with an agreement that the four annual payments would be invested.
"Annually at the home association meeting, a balance sheet was provided with a list of current CDs -- interest rate and due date. During a review of bank statements, it was noted that in 2013 there were no known CDs," said Evans, who researched the records and investments.
"After reviewing account print-outs at the bank, a $30,000 CD was initiated in 2006 and less than one year later, was valued near $15,500. It seemed as though the CD was canceled early on and money then transferred into the home association checking account that only required one signature," he said.
"Subsequently, less money was transferred into a smaller CD. Leaders at the Knights of Columbus Home Association noticed discrepancies in the following annual deposits from 2007, 2008 and 2009, but the fifth deposit in 2010 was invested in a mutual fund," Evans said.
Through random checks and balances of computer statements provided by the bank, Evans said he discovered "there were clearly multiple CD transfers to a checking account" and cash withdrawals often cited by bank slip imaging records with the recipient's signature.