Woman charged second time with swindling a non-profit

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

A Minneapolis woman was charged with identity theft and theft by swindle involving the non-profit where she worked while she was on probation for defrauding a different non-profit, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced Tuesday.

Cynthia Waight, 54, made her first court appearance Monday afternoon and bail was set at $30,000 with no conditions and considerably less with conditions such as no gambling. Her next court hearing is April 5.

“While there was no way for Ms. Waight’s current employer to know she was under investigation for fraud at her previous employer, it is all known now,” Freeman said. “This woman preys on some of our most vulnerable citizens. If we are successful in getting a conviction, we will strongly argue that she deserves prison time.”

According to the criminal complaint, Waight was investigated by a special agent with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development because much of the more than $80,000 she is suspected of stealing was federal funds.

Waight was hired by Vail Place in July 2014 as a housing manager. She managed the organization’s work with the Crisis Housing Fund, a pool of public money designed to help individuals with mental illness who could lose their home or apartment because of their illness, the complaint states.

Vail Place would help their clients fill out the application for the Crisis Housing Fund. The client would have to supply their name, address, date of birth, social security number, and the name of the facility where the client would receive treatment. The money would then be sent to Vail Place, which would then send the money to the client’s landlord, mortgage company or utility company.

Prior to 2014, Vail Place would submit a handful of applications each year. By 2016, Waight was submitting up to three applications per month. And instead of writing the checks to the landlord or other companies, by October 2015, Waight began writing some of the checks out to cash, according to the complaint. The clients and property management companies told investigators that those checks were not paying for housing expenses.

An analysis of Vail Place’s bank account found that from October 2015 through January 2017, $96,270 in Crisis Housing funds were deposited into that bank account. During that same time period, $97,442 was withdrawn from that account through checks signed by Waight. Of that amount, $81,901 was by checks written out to cash, the complaint states.

Investigators seized the records of Waight’s personal bank accounts and that revealed that, between October 2015 and November 2016, she deposited more than $22,000 in cash into her accounts. Many of the deposits lined up exactly with times when Waight withdrew cash from the Vail Place account, according to the complaint.

Other records showed that she was a heavy gambler. From 2014 through September 2017, casino records revealed that she gambled more than $1.6 million and lost $100,000, the complaint states.
In order to boost the number of applications she submitted to the Crisis Housing Fund, Waight started submitting fraudulent applications in the names of real Vail Place clients and forging their signatures, according to the complaint. Waight used the identities, as well as their social security numbers and other personal information, of more than eight Vail Place clients.

On May 25, 2016, after Waight had been working at Vail Place for almost two years, she was charged with two counts of theft by swindle by the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office in connection with her employment at Resource Inc., a non-profit that helps underserved populations. She used clients from Resource's Homeless Outreach project to embezzle more than $25,000 from Resource.

Waight pleaded guilty to that charge on Aug. 30, 2016 and November that year received a prison sentence but she did not have to serve it as long as she lived up to the terms of her probation, which will expire in eight months. One of those conditions is to remain law abiding.

Criminal Complaint (PDF)