Columbus Woman Guilty of Wire Fraud, Stole $240k from Non-Profits
COLUMBUS, Ga. – A Columbus resident and teacher who volunteered for two local non-profit organizations pleaded guilty to wire fraud resulting from an FDIC-led investigation.
Trenna Denise Trice, 59, of Columbus, pleaded guilty to wire fraud before U.S. District Clay Land on Monday, Dec. 20. Trice is facing a maximum twenty years in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing is scheduled for March 29, 2022.
“Trenna Trice abused the trust of two non-profits, a small business and many individual citizens when she choose to steal money intended for others to fund her gambling addiction,” said U.S. Attorney Peter D. Leary. “I commend the FDIC-OIG investigators who unraveled her web of lies through their extensive investigation. Our office, along with our law enforcement partners, will do everything in our power to bring fraudsters to justice.”
“The criminal conduct in this case is even more egregious because Ms. Trice is a public servant, occupied a position of trust in charitable organizations, and stole from those organizations – all while pocketing the funds for her personal use,” said FDIC OIG Special Agent in Charge Kyle A. Myles. “The FDIC Office of Inspector General is committed to working with our law enforcement partners to investigate matters of fraud which impact both the banking system and the community as a whole.”
According to court documents, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation-Office of the Inspector General (FDIC-OIG) initiated an investigation into the financial activities of Trice in May 2019, following reports of significant casino losses sourced by an unidentified income stream. The investigation into possible sources of income for her casino activity revealed that her sole source of income was working as a teacher for the Muscogee County School District (MCSD). Prior to teaching, she worked for a dental office and she worked as a volunteer campaign coordinator for the Columbus branch of the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) from 2005 – 2017.
Trice was responsible for organizing the annual Columbus Mayor’s Masked Ball, UNCF’s primary fundraising activity. Her duties included collecting cash, credit card contributions and check payments for donations and ticket sales. During the course of the investigation, agents determined that while the larger contribution checks from bigger sponsorship companies had made their way to UNCF, Trice diverted numerous smaller contributions for her own personal use. UNCF ended their relationship with Trice in 2017, following questions regarding financial irregularities that were indicative of embezzlement. It was later discovered that Trice had also
been terminated by the dental office following similar allegations. Trice was also collecting donations for a nonprofit corporation known as SAMARC run by two former NBA basketball players who conduct an annual basketball camp for underprivileged kids in Columbus.
In total, agents identified 109 checks and 265 credit card transactions fraudulently deposited into Trice’s own accounts without authorization. Trice told investigators she had a crippling gambling addiction for the last decade and the money was stolen to fuel her gambling addiction and compensate for her gambling losses. Trice said she was always careful to conceal her actions by using only outside ATMs to deposit checks with fraudulent endorsements and by changing the settings in the Square App to disguise that she was the actual recipient of a donation intended for others. In total, with checks and credit cards, Trice is known to have stolen $240,259 from the following victims: UNCF ($162,044), the dental office ($70,231), SAMARC ($7,784) and the Georgia Dental Society ($200).
This case was investigated by the FDIC-OIG.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Crawford Seals is prosecuting the case