Framingham Man Pleads Guilty, Sentenced to at Least Two Years in Prison in Connection with Stealing Over $780,000 From Local Non-Profit Organization
William O'Brien, age 58, of Framingham, pled guilty to the charges of Larceny over $250 (3 counts), Forgery, and Making False Entries in Corporate Books. After the plea was entered, Superior Court Judge Elizabeth M. Fahey sentenced O'Brien to serve two to three years in State Prison, followed by 10 years of probation. Judge Fahey also ordered O'Brien to pay $783,489 in restitution.
In October 2008, the Attorney General's Office began an investigation after O'Brien's alleged activities had been reported by the non-profit organization. In 2000, the non-profit, which is also linked to a local university, contracted with an outside financial management firm to handle its accounting and bill paying duties. O'Brien was hired in 2003 by the financial management firm and was also assigned that same year to handle these duties for the non-profit organization. In his accounting duties for the non-profit, O'Brien was not authorized to sign checks drawn on the non-profit's bank account; rather he was responsible for preparing approved checks to be signed by authorized employees of the non-profit, and for documenting the payments in the non-profit's financial books. After the director of the non-profit received a call from American Express stating that his corporate account would be closed because it had not been paid, the director conducted an internal investigation, discovered that O'Brien had been diverting the non-profit's funds to his personal use, and referred the matter to the Attorney General's Office. Investigators verified that O'Brien had stolen from the non-profit through three schemes: (1) issuing the non-profit's checks payable to American Express, and using those checks to pay his AMEX account rather than the non-profit's; (2) issuing the non-profit's checks payable to a business owned by a friend, and diverting that money to his AMEX account; and (3) issuing the non-profit's checks payable to a vendor with which the non-profit did business, but diverting those checks to his personal checking account. O'Brien either forged the signatures on the checks or obtained valid signatures by misrepresenting the checks as legitimate payments for the non-profit's expenses. He concealed the thefts by falsifying entries regarding the transactions in the non-profit's books in several ways, including by altering the names of payees on the checks. O'Brien used the stolen money for his own personal purposes, including buying items such as tickets for trips and sporting events. Authorities allege that between 2003 and 2008, while working as a contracted financial manager for the non-profit, O'Brien stole more than $780,000 from the non-profit's accounts.
A Middlesex Grand Jury returned indictments against O'Brien on July 2, 2009. Superseding indictments were returned by a Middlesex Grand Jury on February 19, 2010. O'Brien was arraigned on those charges in Middlesex Superior Court on February 25, 2010, where he entered a plea of not guilty and was released on personal recognizance. On September 10, 2010, O'Brien pled guilty to all charges and was sentenced.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Molly Parks, of AG Coakley's Corruption and Fraud Division, and was investigated by Financial Investigator Jessie Dean and Massachusetts State Police assigned to the Attorney General's Office.