SANTA ANA – A former foreign-exchange student convicted of embezzling more than $100,000 from the Girl Scout Council of Orange County was sentenced to jail time after pleading guilty to grand theft and forgery.
Mawufemor Biekro, 35, of Ghana was sentenced to five years and four months in custody. Under new California sentencing guidelines, he will serve his sentence as two years and four months in jail followed by three years under mandatory supervision, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office said.
Biekro was also ordered to pay $102,479 in restitution to the Girl Scouts.
While working as a staff accountant for the Girl Scouts from June 2010 to February 2011, Biekro handled payroll and account ledgers, authorities said.
Prosecutors say Biekro stole from the Girl Scouts by forging 22 checks totaling $102,479. They say he forged two checks a month, using Excel spreadsheet reports to cover his tracks.
“What the defendant stole from was, from our perspective, beyond the pale,” said Deputy District Attorney Chuck Lawhorn, who prosecuted the case. “He made a decision to embezzle money for selfish reasons that impacted a nonprofit organization that serves the needs of 23,000 Girl Scouts in Orange County.”
Lawhorn said Biekro funneled some of the stolen money back to his home country of Ghana through moneygrams and Western Union payments. Biekro also made ATM withdrawals inside Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula and other Indian gaming casinos, where he is believed to have gambled with the embezzled funds, Lawhorn added.
Authorities say a supervisor discovered the financial discrepancies in February 2011 after noticing that a financial spreadsheet Biekro had prepared contained hidden columns with amounts entered in white font, rendering the type invisible.
Police say Girl Scouts leaders confronted Biekro about the irregularities, but he disappeared before police became involved by booking a one-way flight to Ghana.
U.S. Marshals, acting on a tip from Irvine detectives, arrested Biekro in Green Bay, Wis., on June 30, 2012, while he was trying to board a flight to Ghana at the end of a brief return visit to the United States. Biekro initially fought extradition, but Wisconsin authorities accepted a formal warrant from the Governor’s Office, returning him to California to face criminal charges.
Officials with the Girl Scouts of Orange County previously indicated that the stolen funds were recovered through insurance.
Lawhorn noted that Biekro is also facing embezzlement charges in Los Angeles County, where he is suspected of stealing from an employer after fleeing from Orange County.
By SEAN EMERY/ THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
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