BREAKING: Sister Susie Arrested, U.S. Attorney Charges Former Iona College VP of Finance in $1.2 Million Embezzlement

Written By: Robert Cox

Sister Susie

UPDATE: Iona College has issued a statement responding to the news of Thornton’s arrest, disputing the amount. (below)

UPDATE: DOJ has issued a statement correcting the amount from $1.2 million to “more than $850,000”.

DOJ Press Release:

PREET BHARARA, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and BRIAN HICKEY, the Special- Agent-in-Charge of the Northeast Region of the U.S. Department of Education, Office of the Inspector General, announced today the arrest of MARIE E. THORNTON, the former Vice President of Finance for Iona College, on charges of embezzling more than $1.2 million from Iona College over the course of a ten-year time period.

THORNTON surrendered this morning and was presented in Manhattan federal court today.

As alleged in the Information filed in Manhattan federal court:

From about 1999 to about May 2009, THORNTON caused more than $1.2 million belonging to Iona College to be diverted to her personal use by, among other things, submitting false vendor invoices for reimbursement to Iona College and submitting credit card bills for personal expenses to be paid by Iona College.

Mr. BHARARA praised the investigative work of the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Inspector General.

The charges in the Information are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Public Corruption Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorney CARRIE H. COHEN is in charge of the prosecution.

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – x

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

– v. –

MARIE E. THORNTON,

Defendant.
:
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – x

INFORMATION

10 Cr.

COUNT ONE

The United States Attorney charges:

1.

From in or about 1999, up to and including in or about May 2009, in the Southern District of New York and elsewhere, MARIE E. THORNTON, the defendant, being an agent of an organization that received, in a one year period, benefits in excess of $10,000 under a Federal program involving a grant, contract, subsidy, loan, guarantee, insurance, and other form of Federal assistance, to wit, Iona College, did embezzle, steal, and obtain by fraud, and did otherwise without authority knowingly convert to the use of a person other than the rightful owner and intentionally misapply, property that was valued at $5,000 and more and that was owned by and was under the care, custody, and control of such organization, to wit, THORNTON caused more than $1,200,000 belonging to Iona College to be diverted to her personal use by, among other things, submitting false vendor invoices for reimbursement to Iona College and submitting credit card bills for personal expenses to be paid by Iona College.

(Title 18, United States Code, Section 666(a)(1)(A).)

FORFEITURE ALLEGATION

2. As a result of committing the embezzlement offense alleged in Count One of this Information, MARIE E. THORNTON, the defendant, shall forfeit to the United States, pursuant to Title 18, United States Code, Section 981(a)(1)(C) and Title 28, United States Code, Section 2461, all property, real and personal, that constitutes or is derived from proceeds traceable to the commission of the offense, including, but not limited to, a sum in United States currency representing the amount of proceeds obtained as a result of the offense.

Substitute Assets Provision

3. If any of the above-described forfeitable property, as a result of any act or omission of the defendant: (1) cannot be located upon the exercise of due diligence; (2) has been transferred or sold to, or deposited with, a third person; (3) has been placed beyond the jurisdiction of the Court; (4) has been substantially diminished in value; or (5) has been commingled with other property which cannot be subdivided without difficulty; it is the intent of the United States, pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 853(p), to seek forfeiture of any other property of said defendants up to the value of the above forfeitable property.

(Title 18, United States Code, Section 981 and Title 28, United States Code, Section 2461.)

PREET BHARARA
United States Attorney

STATEMENT FROM IONA COLLEGE:

Iona College has issued the following statement in response to the news of the arrest of Sister Marie Thornton:

Statement From Iona College

NEW ROCHELLE, NY (December 9, 2010) — Iona College has been informed by the United States Attorney’s Office that it has indicted the College’s former chief financial officer. As we have stated previously, a year and a half ago when it was discovered that the funds had been misappropriated, we took immediate action to terminate the employee and independent forensic accountants/auditors were retained to investigate thoroughly the allegations of financial fraud, waste and abuse. As a result of that in-depth investigation, new procedures were implemented to prevent a recurrence of the situation and the College complied with all regulatory reporting requirements. Today, we have a new CFO and staff in place; we have recovered the majority of the missing funds; and, from the College’s perspective, the matter is considered closed.

The action being taken by the U.S. Attorney is not with Iona College but with the accused former employee. As such, it would be inappropriate for us to comment on the matter. However, it should be noted that the dollar amount reported by the U.S. Attorney’s Office is significantly inaccurate.

Talk of the Sound was first to report that Andrea Fuller, a researcher for the Chronicle of Higher Education had obtained records showing that Iona College had reported an embezzlement of $800,000. Fuller broke the story after obtaining tax records as part of regular process of reviewing financial documents from colleges and universities around the country.

Iona College Fires Two Employees After Uncovering $800,000 Decade-Long Embezzlement Scheme

Iona College Embezzlement Case Getting More Attention; Suspects Begin to Emerge, Reporter on WVOX Tomorrow

Talk of the Sound Radio S01E04; Andrea Fuller, Reporter Who Broke Iona $800K Story UPDATED WITH PODCAST

PODCAST with Andrea Fuller interview at the midway point of the broadcast.

Iona College Nun “Sister Susie” at Center of Embezzlement Scandal; Likely Deeper and Large Than Reported

JOURNAL NEWS: Former Iona Basketball Coach Jeff Ruland Says Nun Gambled Away School Funds in Atlantic City

Iona College President James Liguori, Mired in Embezzlement Scandal, Wades into New Rochelle District 3 City Council Race

MEDIA COVERAGE OF ARREST:

Chronicle of Higher Education: Former Iona College Official Is Arrested for Allegedly Stealing $1.2-Million

Sister Thornton served as Iona’s vice president for finance and administration for roughly a decade, and she previously was assistant to the president for five years, according to the college’s financial documents. She holds a doctorate in educational administration from Fordham University and previously spent time as a teacher, a principal, and a deputy school superintendent…

Sister Thornton’s arrest was first reported on Talk of the Sound, a New Rochelle blog.

NY Daily News: Iona College busted for embezzling $1.2 million

“I expect us to reach a result in this case that all parties would be satisfied with,” said Thornton’s lawyer, Sanford Talkin. “She’s back to being a nun.”

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/ny_crime/2010/12/10/2010-12-10_nun_busted_for_embezzling_12m.html#ixzz17hxiBXIf

NY Post: Nun charged with embezzling $1.2M from Iona

A spokeswoman for the Manhattan US Attorney’s Office — which brought the case against Thornton — declined to say what spurred its investigation.

Iona nun charged with embezzling $1.2 million

The college’s administration attempted to cover it up, never reporting the incident to the New Rochelle police or the Westchester District Attorney’s Office, a supplemental 2008 tax form indicated.

The story went national on Friday afternoon when the AP published the story.

Nun accused of embezzling $850,000 from NY college

Thornton’s religious order, the Sisters of St. Joseph, said Thornton had been recalled and her activities had been restricted. It said she has been ordered to cooperate with investigators and is being given “emotional and spiritual support.”

Fox News: Nun Accused of Embezzling $850,000 From College, Then Gambling It Away in Atlantic City

Huffington Post: Sister Marie Thornton Allegedly Embezzled $1.2 Million From Iona College

USA TODAY: Nun accused of embezzling $1.2M from college

The story went global by Saturday morning.

Reuters: Gambling nun accused of embezzling $1.2 million

The nun had a reputation for visiting casinos in Atlantic City, New Jersey, according to former Iona basketball coach Jeff Ruland.

(Reporting by Aman Ali; Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Greg McCune) — Talk of the Sound readers will recognize the byline.

BBC: New York nun ‘Sister Susie’ denies embezzling $850,000

Times of Malta: Press Digest

UPDATE: Sisters of Saint Joseph Issue Statement; nun cloistered in Philadelphia.

Fox-TV 29 Philadelphia: Nun Named In Thefts Has Philadelphia Ties

Fox 29 News has learned that she is cloistered in Philadelphia at the Mount Saint Joseph convent.

The convent gave us the following statement:

“Upon learning of the investigation into this matter, the Sisters of Saint Joseph took action, recalling Sister Marie and totally restricting her activities, access and responsibilities within our congregation.”

A fan forum devoted to Iona College basketball has been discussing the case since October: Unreported major theft

6 thoughts on “BREAKING: Sister Susie Arrested, U.S. Attorney Charges Former Iona College VP of Finance in $1.2 Million Embezzlement”

  1. OK ….she did it all by her self ??????
    Yeah sure ,
    She embezzeld for ten year’s, all by her self and nobody cought on in all that time???

    was This why she was incharge of all the sport’s junkets to Atlantic city????
    All the time under the watchfull eye of Who?
    Come on you know who !!!!!

    Gimme a break, I wont say she did not know what she was doing for Iona.
    But she sure was told to do it!,And how to do it .
    They just did it to long, and spent too much money to hide.
    P.S hey brother have we heard from basket ball god’s yet..?????????????….

    1. sport’s junkets to Atlantic city?
      What does this mean, exactly?

      Was she taking student-athletes to Atlantic City?

      1. read your own article Bob!
        You posted an article that mention’s the past history of the basketball team .
        Match the dates up with the time frame all this started.

        You will notice that the basket ball team was doing very well for few yaers and everybody was so happy
        with the program .

        Thaen they started not to do so well,and the college was having problems with the player’s they recruited,( bad grades-selling vouchers for books ), so on and so fourth.
        Players being suspended,N.C.A.A violations.

        coaches being fired ,law suits.
        And all this happening while money is going south.

        Did anybody ever look into maybe it was going to try and improve the diminishing basketball program,that at that point was not making the haedlines and money for the college that it was
        when it was on top!

        Maybe sombody schould look to if the sister was alone on those frequent trips ,and check out those reciepts.

        Any potential players parents at Atlantic city those same days the sister was there?

        Where Did all those cash withdrawls go that were made on the college’s cash card’s .
        Did they all get bet on black or did they go some
        where else????????

        I guess we will never know, now that the college considers it a closed issue ,now that THEY found the culprit!!!!

        Just a little food for thought!!
        Right Brother!!!

  2. Action by Iona Leadership
    In any work environment, when a finance person steals money; significant money, particuallrly over a period of time, you call the District Attorney or Attorney General. It is not an ocassion to terminate their employment, provide an exit opportunity with severance or retire happily. I don’t know all of the details, but was Sister Thorton given a termination letter with positive details regarding her separation i.e., pay for certains # of weeks for years of work, unemployment benefits, extended medical coverage, cashing out her accrued vacation pay, pension? What are the specific details of Sister’s leaving. Has she been happily collecting for the last year?
    This is not a situation where someone stole $50? She stole much more than that. She violated the trust of the school? Aren’t alumni upset? Now, Brother L is saying that they recouped everything or most of it? Which one is it? Does paying it back make it all better? Iona’s response today saying that the matter is closed and no comment that they are working with the US Attorney’s office is suspect! Sounds like a racket at Iona. Let’s hope it doesn’t impact the students and teachers there. Brother L needs to come clean and do the honest thing just like Jesus always did. Does Brother L believe in Jesus?

  3. A comment on the original article.
    ” “Sister Susie ‘FOR ALL INTENSIVE PURPOSES’ ran the college, sources tell Talk of the Sound. Thornton handled the “inside” work of dealing with day-to-day issues while . . . ”

    Should read “FOR ALL INTENTS AND PURPOSES” ran the college, sources tell Talk of the Sound.”

    1. whatever
      here come the grammar police! and the spell check police! and the vocabulary police!

      I’m very busy. If I make an error like that just blurb over it and move on.

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