49-year-old Caroline Bonds of E. Bella Vista Street, Lakeland, was arrested Monday (12.17.12) night and booked into the Polk County Jail for Scheming to Defraud (over $50K), Grand Theft (over $50K), and five counts of Money Laundering for stealing $50,378 from her civic club. She is being held on $25,000 bond. Bonds had been treasurer of the club since 2005 but quit the club in early 2012.
“This is a terrible breach of trust—the Imperial Lions Club has a long history of helping others in Lakeland and Polk County. This woman, who was relied upon by club members to do the right thing, systematically stole over $50,000 that was intended to help the community. She is now in jail where she belongs.” --Sheriff Grady Judd
A member of the Imperial Lions Club contacted the Polk County Sheriff’s Office to report a possible embezzlement of funds from the club—substantial amounts of money were missing from accounts. After receiving over six years of bank records through subpoena requests, detectives conducted a forensic audit of the Lion’s Club accounts.
The forensic audit showed that the Lions Club opened certificate of deposits (CDs) accounts in the amount of $50,000 in June of 2006. During the same day of the deposit, an unauthorized cash withdrawal was made by Bonds. Then, from June of 2006 until June of 2011, Bonds withdrew and transferred $51,773 from Lions Club accounts to herself and her personal bank account. From June of 2011 until January of 2012, in an attempt to avoid detection, Bond transferred minimal funds back into the Lions Club account to pay bills that were due.
During a post-Miranda interview with detectives, Bonds made a full confession to all charges.
“We strongly urge all civic clubs, non-profits, and other charitable organizations to maintain strong internal controls for all their funds. Organizations should have built-in checks and balances and oversight for all financial accounts and transactions. If the same person has total control on all incoming and outgoing funds, the opportunity for theft exists. Regular reconciliations and audits should be conducted by independent parties.” –W.J. Martin, Chief of Law Enforcement, Polk County Sheriff’s Office