How’s your week going?
We’ve been busy. San Ramon was leading the news cycle of late until a Mini Madoff raised his head in Moraga and blew the lid of our sleepy little town. Our phones and email in-boxes puckered and are still recovering.
While the story of F. Robert Fritzky and his alleged embezzlement of Moraga Community Foundation funds exploded here late in the week there has been what those who orbit in Military Intelligence circles have dubbed “chatter” about the town’s chief philanthropic organization, its practices and projects – for some time.
Some of you have stated your concerns publicly, others have chosen to ambush us in local stores or over lunch to whisper concerns in the sotto vocce manner of confidential informants, adhering to the omerta of small towns everywhere: dish on thy neighbor, but don’t do it on the record so you don’t get sued.
We heard you, and confess to having doubts ourselves, but when The Feds and Local Five-0 showed up Friday in their raid jackets and with their hard drive evidence bags, raiding “Bob” Fritzky’s tony home and offices as the locals looked on – mouths agape – things suddenly got very, very real.
The mushroom cloud that detonated over MoTown this week has had an unusual effect on the populace. Past supporters, always vocal, often enthusiastically so, have gone quiet. People who have “always known something wasn’t right” smile at us knowingly and say, “seeeee?” as if they had the inside track on a crime conducted under our very noses all along.
Our response is, of course, is if you knew something was amiss and had hard evidence of wrongdoing – why didn’t you say something?
Instead, it took a semi-forensic analysis of MCF funds by its incoming treasurer to determine that a significant amount of money – even by Moraga standards – was in the wind and that Fritzky’s fiscal solvency, and indeed that of the Foundation whose coffers he managed, was a sham.
It’s clear now the whole thing was a con. A cruel and callous crime according to some. And with every con there are victims – and victims of cons are never eager to admit they were conned. Hence much of the silence we’re hearing, or not hearing, as the mushroom cloud rises into the sky.
In newspaper parlance there’s “more to come” on this story, as a more exhaustive forensic analysis will attempt to “follow the money” and trace where “Bob” sent it. Fritzky’s own status remains cloudily undetermined, as police and prosecutors build a possible case against him, and “Fritzky sightings” become a game played on social media. Many still express concern for his well being.
If there’s anything to be learned from this it is something we learned long, long ago: that many things, no matter how good and pure they may seem on the surface, are rarely as they seem. And this week we learned that an “upstanding and trusted civic-leader,” a rich guy who always had a buck to give a worthy public project, wasn’t that at all.
I feel bad for those who donated their time and hard earned money – they really are victims. But he was a wolf in sheep’s clothing. You can’t take a con man personally. Prosecute him and move on… for your own well being. It’s a win-win situation.
Most of us had moved on, but with the belief that not enough people cared about the Theatre for it to be saved (purchased), by the MCF. Now we have this to digest and it’s a little more disconcerting. It feels a lot like the Grinch who stole the Rheem Theatre but at least we know a lot more people cared than we knew. The enabling that made his deception possible is almost as bad, yet those responsible don’t seem to feel the least bit accountable for what will probably turn out to be half a million or more, stolen from the community at their hands. I guess it’s easy to play fast and loose with other people’s money but in business we have something called generally accepted accounting principles that apparently did not apply to the MCF.
C’mon, what is the job of the board? What an embarrassment. What a sham!
It is embarrassing, and it is the responsibility of the board to keep an eye on these things. You learn from your mistakes, make the necessary changes to see to it that it doesn’t happen again, and you let it go.
Isn’t it up to us to make the necessary changes? When Dubya invades Iraq and Trump cages immigrant children IN OUR NAME don’t we have a civic duty to oppose that if we believe it is unlawful? I don’t understand your position. What will these board members learn if we just let it go? What lesson have they learned if there are no consequences, not even being publicly named? They won’t be prosecuted. They almost certainly serve on other local boards as “pillars of the community”. Moraga Community Foundation was a criminal enterprise that defrauded my community, posing as a public benefit charity, and I should just let things take their course? Let’s just see what happens? I don’t think so.
You talk as though I should let it go NOW. Well, nothing has happened just now except the unveiling of a massive fraud in plain sight. It seems logical to let it go when the process has concluded, not when it is first discovered.
A friend of mine (who grew up in Moraga – so did I) and still lives in Moraga donated money, and he let it go. Forgiveness frees you. It’s a healthier way to live. If you choose to be bitter, I wish you well. It’s just not me.
Approving the annual budget, audit reports, and material business decisions; being informed of, and meeting all, legal and fiduciary responsibilities; read and understand the Foundation’s financial statements.”
Apparently, just words on a page.
Go to their website. You might want to remember who these people are. Those on board from 2016 are not victims in this scam. They are accountable.
People in our community gave money to this organization and trusted they would be good stewards. Those funds were squandered and the scam in retrospect was right under our nose. Fritzky conned us and the board of the Moraga Community Foundation failed us. I for one will be more discriminating in doing my due diligence before sending a check off to a feel good organization of “community volunteers” who want the accolades of volunteerism but are unwilling to do the actual work.
Is it true that Fritzky was the chief executive officer (by whatever title) AND Treasurer? If so, that would seem to be a red flag from day one. Who nominated him to be Treasurer? Who voted for that? There should be minutes of all of those early decisions. Who are these people? These rubes. First the JM sexual abuse coverup makes national news and now this. We are in bleepin’ Mayberry, Toto.
You sold a carbonizer with implosion capacity
to an unlicensed cephlapoid.
He looked all right to me.
MCF Bylaws: “One person may hold two or more offices, except those of President and Secretary;” If Mark Zinman is President now, who was the President when this was established? Now would be a good time to speak up.
I’m not certain if she was president when the MCF was founded, but as of February 2017, Renata Sos was president, per her “letter to the editor” at http://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1026/Letters-to-the-Editor.html.
Assuming two year terms, it’s reasonable to assume Renata was also president at the founding. Fritzky had declared bankruptcy in 2010, but presumably the Board did not know this when they made him treasurer, and apparently didn’t check either. https://www.plainsite.org/dockets/ncspo6ht/california-northern-bankruptcy-court/f-robert-fritzky/
Andy Scheck of Lamorinda Weekly was President initially. For the first year I believe.
per CA secy of state public record:
Incorporated 6/15/2015 by A. Scheck
President not identified. Treasurer not identified. (but we can guess) It would all be declared in the subsequent corporate establishment proceedings if they produced and filed the required documents.
Per excerpt from the Town website:
founders would include “newly elected board members”: Schwartz, Sperry, Fritzky, Moore, Moulton, Lucacher, and A. Scheck
per CA secy of state public record:
SI-100 6/19/2017 CEO is identified as Sos Renata/Secy Robert Moore/Treasurer Robert Fritzky
SI-100 4/22/2019 CEO Tom Schnurr/Secy A. Scheck/Treasurer Robert Fritzky
If Sos Renata was CEO per CA secy of state filing in 2017 and Tom Schnurr in April 2019, and Zinman lists himself as “President” on the website now, who was CEO or “President” in June 2015 at the founding more than 4 years ago? That should be a matter of public record also, I believe, for a “public benefit” charity.
If any of these people are on your current board at the PTA, HOA, country club, Boy Scouts, Parks Foundation, etc. I would seriously urge you to consider asking them to resign immediately and reapply if they want to continue to serve. Correct me if I am wrong, but it would appear that there is a criminal investigation into MCF, and it would appear that the MCF Treasurer was taken at his word and never audited for 4 years…and that assumes no co-conspirators which law enforcement/IRS/FTB is unlikely to assume.
I serve as a volunteer in a public benefit nonprofit charity. Needless to say, when this happens in my own little hamlet this pisses me off.
David, I whole heartedly agree with your comment regarding all board members (old and new) should be forced to reapply for their positions; the is standard procedure in any business when fraudulent charges for financial damages occurs. Taking it one step further I believe each and every one of them should be subject to a full background check and financial check, quarterly. These guidelines are established in the banking industry and should have been in place with the town of Moraga. With regard to who’s at fault, I’m sure the feds will make that determination, however bylaws are in place for a reason and elected officials had a fiduciary responsibility when they took their positions.
This was such a simple fraud, allegedly performed by transfering money or writing checks directly from the Foundation account into his personal and business account. This is bookkeeper fraud 101.
To detect this didn’t require an audit. All that was required was to have looked at the bank statements every month or even every quarter and see the disbursements. This is apparent pure negligence given how long it went on.
A class-action suit against the directors would shake some money out of the Directors & Officers insurance coverage. Presuming the Foundation has D&O.
I agree completely based upon what little we already know. He wrote 53 checks to his own businesses? All the directors or officers had to do was ASK. Are proper receipts being kept for expenses? Let’s take a look at the checking statements… Whoa! What’s this, Bob? A pharma company? Your pharma company?
This was not slick. This was a con by someone desperate for money, and it was enabled by rubes. It makes me wonder if they bothered to keep proper records of their incorporation meetings, annual financial reports, regular meetings, etc.
They are going to need to find those now…
Not only is CEO and Treasurer a “red flag,” nonprofit 101 – NEVER accept the Treasurers report. It should be forwarded to another member of the board (secretary, etc.) for audit. It’s the easiest way to prevent fraud. The Treasurer is the most vulnerable position on a board, and a position most people don’t want. If someone is too eager to be the Treasurer, appoint someone else.
“Forgive and move on…” “Let it go…” It appears that great big rug Moraga has always used to hide its dirt under is in place and ready for use again. I don’t know but if I donated money to a civic organization touted as doing the good work of the town and some joker STOLE IT I would be really, really angry. But that’s just me – I had to WORK for my money.