A former employee of the Archdiocese of Denver has been charged with stealing the identities of nuns and defrauding a charitable foundation of $391,000. She allegedly provided checks from the fund to friends and relatives.
The Denver District Attorney’s Office charged Ruth Gonzales, 58, with two counts of theft and one count of identity theft.
Gonzales, the recent construction director of the Catholic Charities affiliate Archdiocesan Housing, is accused of submitting fraudulent requests to The Denver Foundation’s “Concern for Others” program.
Court papers said that the bank that administered the program grew suspicious in March after noticing that Gonzales’ daughter-in-law often accompanied people who were at the bank with checks from the fund, the Denver Post reports.
In March a teller at a bank branch in the suburb of Highlands Ranch questioned a woman with a check.
The teller told a supervisor “She has no idea why she gets this check from The Denver Foundation.”
The woman later told investigators she was given the check by “a friend at Catholic Charities.”
Between October 2005 and March 2009 Gonzales submitted 347 grant recommendations to the fund ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars each, the arrest affidavit showed. According to the Associated Press, she received 298 checks from the fund.
It appears that Gonzales forged the signatures of various Catholic Charities employees, including some religious sisters, to obtain the grants from The Denver Foundation.
Some of those who received money were friends and family of Gonzales.
The Denver Foundation issued a statement saying that its fund is meant for people “down on their luck” who need assistance with medical needs, rent or utilities.
The foundation reported that it has worked with its outside auditors and has determined that none of its other funds or activities has been affected. The organization also said it has made changes to protect against similar fraud in the future.
“It is our hope that the alleged actions of these individuals will not detract from help we've been able to provide to hundreds of individuals through Concerns for Others over the years,” The Denver Foundation said.
Speaking in a Tuesday statement, Catholic Charities of Denver said it was aware of the matter and had cooperated fully with the Denver District Attorney’s Office and The Denver Foundation. It said no other current or former employees of Archdiocesan Housing have been implicated in wrongdoing.
Catholic Charities said the fraud allegations concern monies from The Denver Foundation, the sole administrator of the “Concern for Others” program.
“No funds entrusted to Catholic Charities or Archdiocesan Housing were involved,” the statement said. “Catholic Charities maintains stringent controls and protections to ensure the good and proper stewardship of gifts entrusted to us.”
Gonzales is free on $10,000 bail.