Former Tennessee Alhambra Office Manager Sentenced to Serve Two Years in Federal Prison for Embezzlement From Organization
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – On August 9, 2017, Belinda A. Phillips, 58, of Chattanooga, Tennessee, was sentenced by the Honorable Curtis L. Collier, Senior U.S. District Judge, to serve 24 months in federal prison for embezzlement from the Alhambra Shrine (Alhambra) in Chattanooga. Upon her release from prison, U.S. Probation will supervise her for three years. Phillips was also ordered to pay $120,000 in restitution.
Phillips previously pleaded guilty to one count of an indictment charging her with making, uttering and possessing a forged security of an organization. Detailed information regarding her actions is included in the plea agreement on file with U.S. District Court. According to the plea agreement, while employed as an office manager with Alhambra in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Phillips had control over their financial books and records, including checks and credit cards. During the time of her employment, Phillips devised a scheme to defraud and embezzle from the organization and obtain money and property for her personal use. She stole and converted checks drawn on Alhambra’s bank accounts, forged signatures and used credit cards to make unauthorized purchases and make payments for her own benefit, including the purchase of personal goods and payment of personal bills.
Alhambra, a charitable and social fraternal unincorporated association, was an affiliate of Shriner’s International. As part of its charitable activities, Alhambra supported the Shriner’s Hospitals for Children, which provide free medical care to children. They maintained a transportation fund that was to be used exclusively to transport children without charge from the Chattanooga area to the Shriner’s Hospitals for Children. Alhambra officials discovered that Phillips was siphoning funds from various accounts, including the charitable transportation account, for her own use when they were unable to pay for the transportation of a sick child who needed to fly from Chattanooga to Cincinnati for critical health care. As a result, they had to find funding elsewhere, and the treatment was delayed.
The Chattanooga Police Department and U.S. Secret Service investigated this case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Neff represented the United States.