Carmel-based fraternity foundation official accused of embezzling $450K

The former financial coordinator of a charitable foundation operated by Carmel-based women’s fraternity Zeta Tau Alpha has been charged in federal court with eight counts of wire fraud, accused of embezzling about $450,000 from the organization.

Christina Short, 43, of Speedway, was indicted Monday in federal court in Indianapolis, where she is accused of devising a scheme to defraud ZTA, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana Josh Minkler said in a press release. “The evidence show that she stole over 800 separate cashier’s checks and money orders,” the indictment says, that Short deposited into her own bank accounts.

Short attempted to cover her tracks by altering the foundation’s donation logs and financial ledgers, the indictment says. After a financial institution discovered the embezzlement and notified the foundation last November, “Short admitted that she had taken ‘a few’ money orders over the past week,” leading to her firing and the investigation that produced the indictment.

The evidence in the indictment specifically notes eight instances in which Short is accused of making wire transfers of money orders to her personal bank accounts from October 2012 through May 2018. Each of those money orders was for $500 to $1,000.

Short had worked for the foundation since 2002, according to the indictment, mostly as a part-time dedicated staff member responsible for receiving, recording and depositing donations to the foundation. The evidence shows that in some cases, Short wrote her own name over Zeta Tau Alpha in the “pay to” line of money orders; in other cases in which the donor had not filled in the “pay to” line, relying on ZTA staff to do so, she simply filled in her name or one of several aliases, then deposited them into her account, according to the indictment.

Zeta Tau Alpha has more than 20,000 student members in chapters at more than 150 colleges and universities. Its philanthropic arm uses donations to fund scholarship, leadership and educational opportunities for students and alumnae as well as to promote breast cancer awareness and education. ZTA also has more than 200,000 current alumnae members associated with more than 200 chapters.

This case was jointly investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Carmel Police Department. If convicted, Short would face up to 20 years in prison on each charge and payment of full restitution.

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