ORLEANS — Jeremy Gingras, the former executive director of the Harwich Chamber of Commerce, has been accused of embezzling funds from the chamber and its charitable foundation for years before he was fired in 2017. According to a conservative estimate from a forensic accountant, Gingras allegedly received at least $37,712.73 from the scheme.
On Tuesday, Gingras was in Orleans District Court to answer two counts of felony larceny. Through his attorney, Matt Kelley, Gingras pleaded not guilty to the charges and was released on his own recognizance pending a pretrial hearing in June. Kelley declined comment on behalf of his client.
The case was investigated by Harwich Police Det. Sgt. Robert Brackett, and began in 2017 about two months after the chamber fired Gingras for “poor performance.” According to court filings, Gingras was responsible for the finances of the chamber and its foundation, and prepared financial reports to be presented to the board of directors. After he was terminated, chamber officials had full access to the finances and contacted police to report that they believed Gingras had been stealing.
A lifelong Harwich resident, Gingras was hired by the Harwich Chamber of Commerce as its executive director in 2011. Investigators say there were signs of financial irregularities as early as 2015, when then-Membership Services Director Cyndi Williams started receiving complaints from TD Bank that the chamber was late on its mortgage payments. Williams is now the executive director.
The following spring, there were complaints from other creditors, including the Monomoy Regional School District, which claimed it was owed money for past chamber of commerce events. The chamber had also failed to pay for police details for its annual 5K road race. The then-president of the chamber, Mike Ulrich, told police that he had many meetings with Gingras about the finances, “and they were always provided with satisfactory answers,” the police report reads. “Gingras insisted that many of the outstanding bills had been paid,” despite complaints to the contrary through 2016. At times, the chamber was also not meeting its payroll, the report reads.
Investigators say Ulrich and other leaders of the chamber and its charitable foundation became concerned that they had no way to directly access or view the organizations’ bank accounts. “The treasurers of both the chamber of commerce and the charitable foundation relied solely upon the documentation and financial numbers that they were provided by Jeremy Gingras,” investigators wrote. When they sought to transfer accounts from TD Bank to Cape Cod Five under new accounts with access for key officials, Gingras repeatedly avoided doing so, Ulrich told police.
When the funds were transferred to Cape Cod Five, Ulrich said it appeared the full balance had not been transferred. At that stage, Gingras was fired. No public explanation for his termination was given at the time.
“Mr. Ulrich stated that upon the firing of Gingras, they discovered the true position of their finances” and suspected that Gingras had falsified the financial statements he provided to the board.
“Ulrich stated that it appeared that Gingras actually altered the original bank statements to make it appear that the balances were different than they truly were and represented the statements as being original from the bank,” Brackett wrote. “It was also learned that the account at TD Bank had not been closed,” and that Gingras was writing checks from the new Cape Cod Five account made out to TD Bank in the amount of the mortgage payment. “It was learned that these ‘mortgage’ checks were being deposited in the original chamber of commerce account that was never closed and were not being applied to the mortgage,” the report reads.
Some of the charitable foundation’s bills were also allegedly not paid, and a certificate of deposit held by the foundation had been allegedly cashed out and closed without authorization. Police say foundation member John Blute said that “many of the organizations in town that were to have received donations from the charitable foundation never received such donations” despite Gingras’ claims to the contrary. “Mr. Blute also stated that many of the scholarships that they had agreed to fund had not been paid.”
“Mr. Ulrich and Mr. Blute stated that when they gained control and access to the accounts of both the chamber and the charitable foundation, they found that the combined accounts had approximately $30 in them. The last statement presented by Jeremy Gingras represented that the combined accounts along with the certificate of deposit in the Money Market account totaled over $40,000. Mr. Blute stated that the charitable foundation account had only about $.50 in the account when they believed that it should have approximately $17,000 according to documents provided by Gingras,” the police report reads.
On the advice of police, the chamber hired a forensic accountant, who determined that Gingras had altered and fabricated records for the chamber treasurer and recorded nine mortgage payments in 2016 that were never actually made. Accountant Tammy Glivinski also found that checks had been written to Gingras, unauthorized PayPal transfers and ATM withdrawals were made from the chamber’s accounts totaling more than $32,500, and Gingras had received more than $5,000 in unauthorized funds from the charitable foundation between 2015 and 2017.
Chamber officials discovered that there were allegedly thousands of dollars in ATM and credit charges to the chamber’s credit card for local supermarkets and restaurants. “There were cash ATM withdrawals that were upwards of $500 to $800 per month. There were charges to Handkerchief Shoals Motel in Harwich for over $800,” the police report reads.
Glivinski offered a “conservative and accurate” approximation of $37,712.73 in funds Gingras allegedly received illicitly.
Then-treasurer of the chamber Brian Carey, a certified public accountant, told police he saw no signs of inappropriate finances during his tenure, but that Gingras had full control of the finances. Carey told police that in 2016, the chamber board started to learn that Gingras had organized events that they had not approved.
“One such event involved a performance by singer Siobhan Magnus which was held at Monomoy Regional High School,” but the school had not been paid for the use of the facility, Carey told police. “Mr. Carey also stated that Mr. Gingras also attempted to organize a bridge dedication ceremony for the Exit 10 overpass that was to include a fireworks display at a cost of $10,000. This was also all organized without any approval of the board of directors,” Brackett wrote. The chamber raised only about $2,000 for the fireworks display, and the event never took place.
“It is the belief of Mr. Carey that these events were an attempt by Mr. Gingras to raise significant amounts of monies in an effort to be able to cover up and replace lost/diverted funds,” Brackett wrote.
“Mr. Carey was very upset that this activity could have gone on without any of them noticing,” Brackett wrote. “Mr. Carey was particularly taken aback by the quality of the bank statements that were created by Gingras and presented to the board of directors. Mr. Carey stated that he looks at bank statements all the time in his profession and he could not tell.”
Abby Our Rose, the current chamber president, declined to comment on the pending case.
“We are working really hard to improve the experience for all our members,” she said.
Each count of larceny over $250 carries a potential penalty of up to five years in prison, two years in county jail and fines of up to $25,000. Gingras returns to court on June 6 for a pretrial conference.