Arizona Museum Bled Dry by Former Accountant?

Arizona Museum Bled Dry by Former Accountant?
The former chief accountant of the Tucson Museum of Art may have embezzled nearly $1 million from the institution over a five-year period, but if she did, she hid it well: Ruth Sonsallegedly cooked the books to cover her tracks and apparently kept alow profile by living in a mobile home, albeit a double-wide.

Sons was indicted this week on seven felony counts related to the embezzlement of $973,010 from 2003 to 2008.

A grand jury charged Sons with taking more than $400,000 from themuseum’s payroll and operating accounts and more than $550,000 from thegift shop. She also dipped into the petty cash jar for $6,500, theindictment alleges.

The Arizona Daily Star reported that Sons pleaded not guilty. It quoted Assistant Attorney General Mike Jette as saying authorities have not recovered any of the money and that Sons may have lost it gambling.

Sons worked for the Tucson museum since 1990, but her allegedembezzlement ran from 2003 to 2008. The Tucson Citizen quoted museumspokeswoman Meredith Hayes as saying Sons left the museum in December, but she would not reveal if the accountant resigned or was fired.

Attorney General Terry Goddardsoffice said the alleged scheme was discovered during an internal auditlast year, and the Daily Star had reported in January that a formeremployee was being investigated for theft.

Prosecutors said Sons forged the signatures of museum officials to cover her tracks and doctored the museum accounting ledger to conceal the embezzlement.

Court documents showed that Sons’s double-wide mobilehome was searched and that investors had records showing she had cashed209 checks from the museum, in amounts ranging from $600 to just under$1,900, from May 2006 to November 2008. Investigators also obtainedrecords indicating she had gambled $2.4 million at the Desert DiamondCasino in Tucson.

The alleged theft is a sizable amount for the Tucson museum, whichspecializes in American and contemporary art and runs a collection ofhistoric buildings. The museum’s 2007–08 annual report showed revenueand expenses of $3.2 million.