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Sep-16-2009 16:25printcomments

Yamhill County Charity Director Indicted for Embezzlement

Elizabeth Rhode was arrested on September 15, 2009.
Elizabeth Rhode was arrested on September 15, 2009 for stealing at least $52,000 from a charity that employed her.
Photo: Yamhill County Sheriff

(MCMINNVILLE, Ore.) - Elizabeth Anne Rhode faces seven counts of forgery and aggravated theft for allegedly stealing more than $50,000 from the Crystal Dawn Smith Rilee Foundation, Yamhill County Sheriff Jack Crabtree said.

The Sheriff joined Yamhill County District Attorney Brad Berry and Oregon Attorney General John Kroger today, to announce the indictment and arrest of the local charity director on charges of embezzlement.

Crabtree said, "This indictment stabs at the very heart of the good citizens who worked to make this charity a valuable area resource."

"Most Oregon charities do such important work for our state," added Attorney General Kroger. "Stopping charity theft gives Oregonians the confidence they need to donate to causes they believe in."

Elizabeth Anne Rhode, Executive Director of the Crystal Dawn Smith Rilee Foundation, faces five counts of first-degree aggravated theft and two counts of forgery. The indictment alleges that she stole money on multiple occasions from the Foundation between Dec. 30, 2006, and May 3, 2008.

The indictment alleges that Rhode stole at least $52,000, but Capt. Ken Summers, Yamhill County Sheriff's Office spokesman, said detectives suspect that the losses are at least twice that.

According to the foundation mission statement, "The Crystal Dawn Smith Rilee Foundation endeavors to help those in the community who help others and to preserve the rich historical fabric of the Willamette Valley."

A four person board of directors carries out the above mission statement and manages about 410 acres of foundation land as well as other foundation assets. Rhode, 57, was employed by the foundation as the Executive Director and held one of the four board seats, according to Summers.

"In November, 2008 the board of directors began to notice financial discrepancies and in January, 2009 an internal investigation was started with a private forensic financial firm from Portland," Summers said. "The Sheriff's Office became involved in April of 2009 and DOJ came on board with the investigation shortly thereafter."

Elizabeth Rhode was arrested on September 15, 2009.

Yamhill County District Attorney Brad Berry said she was being held on $500,000 bail and was arraigned at 1:20 p.m. today.

Rhode was investigated jointly by the Oregon Department of Justice Charitable Activities Section and the Yamhill County Sheriff's Office. Yamhill County Deputy District Attorney Ladd Wiles is prosecuting the case.

DOJ's Charitable Activities Section regulates 15,000 registered non-profit organizations in Oregon and investigates a wide range of complaints, including misleading solicitations, violations of the Do Not Call registry and potential criminal conduct related to charities.

Attorney General John Kroger leads the Oregon Department of Justice. The Department's mission is to fight crime and fraud, protect the environment, improve child welfare, and defend the rights of all Oregonians.

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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.


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