By Benjamin J. Gohs, Editor
Keisha Kay Veryser, 36, of Charlevoix, and former St. Mary Catholic School Principal from 2006 to 2009, has been charged with five counts of embezzlement and two counts of perjury.
Veryser turned herself in to the Charlevoix County Jail and was arraigned the morning of Tuesday Nov. 1, in Charlevoix County 90th District Court.
“Upon review of the records … the misappropriated/embezzled funds total approximately $100,000,” it states in the affidavit of probable cause by investigator Det. Sgt. Jerry Briolat of the Michigan State Police.
According to police documents, Veryser took money from various church funds and/or accounts and at least one bank CD.
Veryser’s attorney Bryan Klawuhn waived his client’s right to a speedy trial citing the large amount of discovery items through which he would have to sift to prepare for the case.
During a telephone interview later in the day, Klawuhn spoke with the Boyne City Gazette.
“I just got four boxes of discovery material,” said Klawuhn. “That’s going to take me a rather significant amount of time to get through.”
He added, “My client maintains her innocence and we will defend her to the fullest extent of the law.”
Klawuhn said the only information made public about the alleged incidencesare the general accusations against Veryser.
“Once we get into more specifics a more clear picture of what happened will start to appear,” he said.
Charlevoix County Prosecuting Attorney John Jarema said this case is the culmination of a 17-month investigation
“We’re still investigating to see if others may be involved,” he said.
Veryser was hired Aug. 1 2006, to work at the school located at 1005 Bridge St. in Charlevoix, and resigned on March 17, 2010.
On April 15, the state police were called and asked to handle the case by Charlevoix Police Chief Gerard Doan because he is a parishioner of St. Mary Church.
Officials say funds were used for everything from a loan for a cosmetic procedure, children’s ski academy, personal credit card, student loans, and other purchases.
“I think it’s a reflection of the economy, a reflection of the times, but I think, mostly, in this case, it was just a lifestyle,” Jarema said.
According to Jarema, the school was tipped off to the alleged embezzlement when a “suspicious” check was written on a school account for a personal matter.
“The school began looking at the School’s books and accounts and found what appeared to be payments to Keisha Veryser’s personal credit card from school funds,” Briolat stated. “My investigation revealed that Keisha Veryser was a signer on numerous accounts including the miscellaneous account, Northern Lights Account, Scholarship Account and on the school’s CD accounts … (and) Veryser had possession of the school’s First Bank Card and the statement was apparently sent to her home address.”
According to police, the alleged embezzlement began in 2006 with $100 on Sept. 15, when Veryser allegedly took three checks totaling $300 to a Charlevoix bank, but only deposited $200 into the school’s miscellaneous account.
In his affidavit, Briolat lists more than 45 individual allegations of embezzlement, and he states that there were numerous others which were not listed.
Numerous alleged incidences of embezzlement occurred during each year of Veryser’s employment with the last alleged offense involving the withdrawal of $3,500 from the school’s miscellaneous account on Jan. 13 2010. Officials say Veryser turned the money into an official cashier’s check and sent it to pay Veryser’s personal Visa credit card bill.
The perjury charges Veryser faces stem from a civil suit filed against Veryser by the Gaylord Catholic Diocese which is suing Veryser for the money they allege she took.
“(Briolat) believes that Keisha Veryser was not truthful when she stated, under oath, ‘I don’t know much about CDs, so that’s all I know,’” Briolat stated. “Keisha Veryser was not truthful when she stated, under oath, that her student loans were paid off with money from the miscellaneous account when the documents show that she cashed in a CD and sent a cashier’s check to the Department of Education.”
If found guilty, Veryser could face up to 10 years in prison and/or $15,000 in fines or up to three times the amount allegedly stolen; the penalty for perfjury is 15 years in prison.
Jarema said there are stiffer penalties for embezzling from a nonprofit organization.
“The legislature has deemed it a more serious offense when you steel or embezzle from a nonprofit,” he said. “The legislature has also given the prosecutor authority to charge individual counts or add total counts in a given period to get to the threshold to charge on these types of cases.”
A pretrial hearing has been scheduled for 10 a.m. On Dec. 6; and the preliminary examination has been scheduled for 9 a.m. On Dec. 15.