Ex-Lebanon arts council president indicted for theft of group’s funds

Rochelle Collins, the former president of the Arts Council of Lebanon, has been indicted for theft of the organization’s funds.STAFF/LAWRENCE BUDD
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Rochelle Collins, the former president of the Arts Council of Lebanon, has been indicted for theft of the organization’s funds.STAFF/LAWRENCE BUDD

The former president of the Arts Council of Lebanon has been indicted on a theft charge alleging she embezzled more than $6,800 from the organization.

Rochelle L. Collins, 46, of Lebanon, allegedly stole more than $6,800 from the arts group from March 2018 to February 2019.

“There were numerous other transactions that were highly questionable,” Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell said Monday.

Collins led the revival of the group, which promoted arts throughout Warren County, in 2016.

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She is charged with one count of theft “beyond the scope of the express consent of the owner or person authorized to give consent,” a fifth-degree felony.

The amount taken includes at least $5,704 in ATM withdrawals and $1,161 in debit card purchases spent on purchases from businesses including UDF, Kroger and Whole Foods, according to Fornshell.

Collins remained free Monday, pending her arraignment on Aug. 2 in Warren County Common Pleas Court.

Collins withdrew money from the council’s bank account and with a debit card issued “shortly after” the group’s treasurer resigned and she was “sole custodian” of the business records, Fornshell said.

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“They violated two of the cardinal rules,” said Fornshell in reference to training sessions he periodically holds to help non-profit organizations avoid embezzlement.

One key rule is that two people share oversight of the funds.

The other urges organizations not to give officials debit cards.

“It becomes impossible to track the cash,” Fornshell said.

Collins declined to comment.

The embezzlement and Collins’ departure apparently put the arts council out of existence. On Monday, the business next door had expanded into its former offices.