The former executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness in central Virginia has been accused of embezzling thousands of dollars from the nonprofit by misusing credit cards and forging and cashing fraudulent checks on the account of the organization from 2019 to 2021.
Mark Andre Richardson, 49, of Richmond, was indicted by a grand jury in Henrico County Circuit Court last month on four counts of embezzlement over $1,000, attempted obtaining money under false pretenses and falsifying and disseminating documents with the intent to defraud the National Alliance on Mental Illness, also known as NAMI.
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Richardson was originally charged on April 28 with arrest warrants for 14 offenses, but those charges were dropped on September 14 during a hearing in Henrico’s General District Court, reportedly to make way for acts of charge for more serious charges. Only one count of embezzlement was certified before the grand jury during that September hearing, according to the court filing.
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According to court documents, police in Henrico first learned of the alleged fraud on January 13, when NAMI President Linda A. McLeod and Treasurer Joseph Fisher spoke with a detective, and they indicated that “Richardson misappropriated money from the company”.
They also noted that Richardson had access to the organization’s credit card and checkbook, and “misused that access and used NAMI’s account for personal reasons.”
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“From January 7, 2019 until Richardson’s departure in April 2021, McLeod and Fisher discovered suspicious transactions not authorized by NAMI,” according to the prosecutor’s account of the allegations contained in court filings. “There were numerous checks written by Richardson to himself which McLeod said should not have happened. Richardson left of his own volition in 2021.”
McLeod also told police the organization hired Keiter, a certified public accounting firm, to review its books. Keiter found “numerous discrepancies, including when Richardson used the company credit card to buy a flight for himself to Florida, a rental car in Florida, a flight for someone else flies from Florida to Atlanta”. McLeod indicated that none of these purchases were authorized, according to the prosecutor’s account.
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After Agent Henrico reviewed the transactions provided by McLeod and Fisher, he determined that many of them were over a year old and were torts, and that the statute of limitations for those offenses had expired. But there were also “many amounts of crime”.
“NAMI lost several thousand dollars due to Richardson’s embezzlement,” states the prosecutor’s account. “There are also many transactions that McLeod said were not authorized using the company credit card for small purchases.”
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Upon further investigation, it was determined that Richardson wrote numerous checks to himself and signed them. McLeod said this was against NAMI policy. Additionally, Richardson used the company credit card for purposes unrelated to NAMI’s business, and McLeod indicated that there were several dates when the company credit card was used inappropriately, according to the survey report.
Contacted on Friday, Henrico Commonwealth’s assistant attorney, Jay Peluso, who is prosecuting the case, said the investigation was ongoing and the total amount lost had yet to be determined. He declined to comment further.
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Attorney Craig Cooley, who represents Richardson, did not return multiple phone and email messages for comment. Messages left with two NAMI officials were also not returned.
A status hearing in the Richardson case was held Thursday in Henrico Circuit Court. A trial date has been set for March 9.
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The National Alliance on Mental Illness is a national grassroots mental health organization that provides educational programs, advocates for individuals and families affected by mental illness, and operates a toll-free helpline.
The majority of the nonprofit’s funding comes from individual contributions. The rest comes from major foundations and corporate sponsorships, membership dues, grants, events and other partnerships, according to the organization.
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