A Classic Embezzlement

disabled-vetsThe following sad case demonstrates all the ACFE’s common elements of an embezzlement.

It’s still not clear exactly how much the treasurer of a Roanoke, Virginia veterans group stole over the past several years.

In February, James Keith Clem, 69, pleaded no contest to two counts of embezzlement, and he has said he inappropriately spent about $21,000 using an organizational debit card that was issued in his name. Officials with the local chapter of the Disabled American Veterans claimed the figure was closer to $30,065, siphoned in small amounts from 2011 to 2014.

Bank records show many of Clem’s purchases were made at such places as Walmart, Kroger, Lowe’s, Outback Steakhouse and Cracker Barrel. At a sentencing hearing in Salem Circuit Court, the two sides very nearly split the difference and agreed upon a total of $24,159.49 “for good or bad, for happy or sad,” head prosecutor Tom Bowers said. Clem was sentenced by Judge David Carson to serve 60 days in jail, with five years and 10 months in suspended time. He was taken into custody as soon as the hearing ended. He’ll have 35 months to pay back the missing money, and his attorney, Ray Byrd, said Clem intended to pay $10,000 immediately. Carson also ordered Clem to complete 10 hours of community service each month for the first year after his release.

On the stand, Clem said he is an Army veteran who was honorably discharged after he was shot and wounded during his service in Vietnam. He said he had been with the Disabled American Veterans “virtually every day” since 1985 in both paid and volunteer capacities. More than a dozen veterans crowded into the courtroom Thursday, many of whom accused Clem of not acknowledging his mistake by apologizing to them.

“I am truly sorry for what I did,” he said, as some of them shook their heads.