Lashanta Magnusson, former treasurer of a Tewksbury nonprofit Friends of Special Ed Kids (FOSEK), was arraigned on embezzlement charges Friday, according to the Lowell Sun. The prosecution alleges that Magnusson used the organization’s debit card to purchase personal groceries, gas, and other items and to make her car loan payments. The investigation began in September after members of the FOSEK board reached out to Tewksbury police with their concerns. The board members allegedly noticed improprieties in the organization’s checking and savings accounts. Magnusson, as the treasurer, was allegedly the only person with access to both accounts. FOSEK’s CEO and president reportedly became suspicious on September 10, when he made a deposit and noticed that the balance was unexpectedly low. It is alleged that the unauthorized withdrawals date back to April or even as far back as 2010 and that the total amount was more than $5,000. Electronic purchases made with the debit card allegedly include pizza and items from Walmart. Magnusson’s pre-trial conference is scheduled for January 11.
In this case, it is worth noting that the paper reported that Magnusson became a suspect because she was allegedly the only person with access to both the checking and the savings accounts. It does not say whether or how many other people had access to one, but not both, accounts. Most debit cards allow a person to choose which account to withdraw funds from, so if other personnel had debit cards, it would seem that others would have access to both accounts. It would also seem that, even if no one else had access to both accounts, two persons with access to one account each could have been responsible.
When making an electronic purchase using a debit card, often one is able to choose whether to treat the purchase as debit or credit. This may be important if the alleged purchases were made using the credit option because the Supreme Judicial Court has said that credit does not count as “property” within the meaning of G. L.c. 266, §30, the Massachusetts larceny statute. The difference between larceny and embezzlement lies in whether a person was or was not rightfully in possession of the property when a taking occurred. Embezzlement involves an unauthorized taking of property where the defendant was rightfully in possession. The prosecution has to prove that a defendant intended to permanently deprive the owner of the property. Larceny by embezzlement over $250 is a Massachusetts felony. Where the amount in question is $250 or less, the crime is only punishable by up to one year in jail or a fine. Here, Magnusson is apparently facing felony embezzlement charges, since it is alleged that the value of the property was more than $5,000.