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Wedding Charity Maven Quietly Steals $5.1 Million From Her Job

Illustration for article titled Wedding Charity Maven Quietly Steals $5.1 Million From Her Job

Lots of people Social-Media-On-Company-Time-level hate their jobs. Many Badmouth-Their-Employer-To-Their-Friends level hate their jobs. Fewer still Steal-Shit-From-Work level hate their jobs. But one Maryland woman wins: she stole $5.1 million from her job over years... all while running a charity for military brides. People are complex.

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Meet Ephonia Green. By day, an administrative assistant who skimmed millions from her nonprofit employer, by, uh, non-day, the owner of a bridal shop that donated hundreds of dresses to military brides like a goddamn fairy godmother. Wait, scratch that — she was more of a Robin Hood. If Robin Hood lived in a $1.1 million house in Maryland and often sought publicity for her charitable works.

Green's employer, the American Association of Medical Colleges, was completely in the dark about Green's seven-year-long, one woman embezzlement operation. According to the Washington Post, cases like Green's highlight how lax-ish standards of keeping tabs on nonprofit finances make them ideal targets for sticky fingered employees. Here's how Green operated:

Of the alleged loss, nearly $1.4 million was paid via 74 checks made out to Green's bridal business, known as Couture Miss Bridal & Formal, court files show. [...]

The court document contends that Green enriched herself by registering company trade names and opening bank accounts in business names that closely resembled those of legitimate vendors to the association.

At the association, Green had enough access to key financial systems that she was able to create fake invoices in the names of legitimate groups that she then approved for payment, the court files contend. And when the checks were ready, she had them returned to her, not sent to the vendors, prosecutors charge.

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So instead of the Brookings Institution, Green opened accounts in the name of "Brookings Institute."

Meanwhile, Green was actively involved in promoting and publicizing her charity work with Brides Across America. Here's a news report featuring Green's charity work. And another. And here's yet another glowing writeup of Green from 2011:

Green is the owner of Couture Miss Bridal & Formal, a full-service bridal boutique located in downtown Upper Marlboro. For five years, Green and her team have been giving away wedding dresses to active-duty military personnel and their fiancées.

"They give to us, and, you know, when you're getting married … that's that dream," Green said. We "just [want] to help with some of the expense and the cost."

The giveaway is part of a program called Brides Across America, a national charitable organization that unites military brides and bridal shops across the country in an effort to help troops and their families achieve their wedding dreams. Through Brides Across America, Green has given away 275 wedding gowns to military brides.

According to the piece linked above, Green "became the owner" of her shop in 2008, after being employed there as an associate. That would have overlapped with the timeline during which court records allege that Green was embezzling $SOMUCHMONEY from the Association of American Medical Colleges.

According to court documents, it's not exactly clear where most of the millions Green stole went, exactly. Some went to her shop's famous giveaways, some went to pay for her house, and more still went to "personal expenses."

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[Washington Post]

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DISCUSSION

I've come a situation that is kind of like this, only scaled down to an extreme degree. It's really been bugging me, and I don't know if I should do anything. One of my husband's cousins runs a charity where they take in unsold merchandise from various stores (clothes, housewares, almost anything), remove as many labels as possible, and then donate it to people in need or other charitable businesses. Her grandmother and grandmother's sister 'help' a couple days a week. The problem is, their main contribution seems to be sorting through everything, picking out what they like the best, and giving it away to people in the family. I've gotten a number of dresses and kitchen stuff from her, which I just donate right to the women's shelter, but I know that a lot of other family members just keep what's given to them. My cousin-in-law seems to think that it's harmless, gives two old ladies something to do and feel good about, and that they don't take enough to be worried about. However, I've got a feeling that some of the organizations who donate to them wouldn't be happy to hear about this. I don't want to shut down the business, because over all it does a lot of good. Any suggestions?