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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of Indiana

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Charity employee charged federally with stealing funds

Speedway woman allegedly embezzled over $450,000

INDIANAPOLIS – United States Attorney Josh J. Minkler announced today that Christina Short, 43, of Speedway, Indiana, was arrested and charged with wire fraud for perpetrating a multi-year scheme to steal over $450,000 from the charitable foundation where she worked. 

“Charities serve a critical role in our society. Those who donate should feel secure in knowing their funds will go where intended,” said Minkler. “And those who choose to steal should likewise know that they will be caught, prosecuted, and held accountable in court.” 

Short’s now-former employer was Zeta Tau Alpha (ZTA), a national women’s college fraternity headquartered in Carmel, Indiana, with thousands of student members in approximately 170 college chapters, as well as approximately 200,000 living alumnae members. Since 2002, Short served as the financial coordinator for the ZTA Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charity and the national philanthropic organization of ZTA. The Foundation received numerous donations on an almost daily basis, which it used for charitable purposes such as scholarships, promoting breast cancer awareness, and education. Short was responsible for receiving, depositing, and accounting for individual donations. 

In 2012, according to the charges, Short began stealing donations. Specifically, the charges allege that the Foundation would receive dozens of donations each month, and each month, Short would pocket several of them, typically money orders. Short would allegedly alter the “pay to” information, making the money orders payable to herself, and then deposit them in one of her several bank accounts. Over time, Short allegedly stole greater and greater numbers of donations.  By 2016, she was stealing over 150 donations per year, until she was caught in late 2018.

The charges further allege that Short took multiple steps to conceal her fraud from her employer and ZTA Foundation donors. For example, Short ensured that each donation received, including the ones she ultimately stole, was entered into the ZTA Foundation donation database.  This concealed her thefts from donors by ensuring that individual donors received “thank you” cards and tax deduction information, and college chapters would see accurate giving totals when they checked the ZTA website. 

At the same time, Short would allegedly alter the ZTA Foundation’s books and records regarding the total amounts donated and deposited into the bank, reducing those totals by the amounts she stole. So when the Foundation checked its bank account balances, they matched their books. Short even allegedly provided altered documents to ZTA’s outside auditors to conceal her fraud. 

Short allegedly stole approximately 800 money orders intended for the ZTA Foundation and deposited them into her personal bank accounts. In total, she allegedly embezzled over $450,000 in charitable funds.

Short’s conduct was brought to light when a fraud examiner at her bank noticed what appeared to be doctored money orders deposited into her account. The bank promptly notified ZTA, who quickly investigated the matter and terminated Short. ZTA and the bank also notified law enforcement, who immediately began investigating, with ZTA’s cooperation. 

This case was jointly investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Carmel Police Department.

According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Nick Linder, who is prosecuting the case for the government, Short would face up to 20 years in prison on each charge and payment of full restitution, if convicted.

The investigation is ongoing.

Charges are not evidence of guilt. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven otherwise, by trial or guilty plea, in federal court.

In October 2017, United States Attorney Josh J. Minkler announced a Strategic Plan designed to shape and strengthen the District’s response to its most significant public safety challenges. This prosecution demonstrates the Office’s firm commitment to prosecuting complex, long-running fraud schemes. See United States Attorney’s Office, Southern District of Indiana Strategic Plan 5.1

Updated October 10, 2019