Former H.O.W. Foundation exec charged
BY DAVID HARPER World Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
6/13/12 at 8:07 AM
An addiction to gambling has led to the prosecution of a former substance-abuse recovery program director on a charge of defrauding the nonprofit corporation of more than $1.3 million, his attorney said Tuesday.
Wesley Scott McGinness, 65, a former executive director of the H.O.W. Foundation, was charged with the fraud Tuesday in federal court in Tulsa. He is accused of using checks drawn on the foundation's bank accounts to pay personal credit card debts from Jan. 13, 2003, until Dec. 14, 2010.
The foundation operates the H.O.W. Foundation Recovery Center for substance abuse at 5649 S. Garnett Road.
The new executive director discovered the fraud, according to a civil suit filed Jan. 28, 2011, in Tulsa County District Court.
While he was executive director, "Mr. McGinness maintained exclusive control over the foundation's bank accounts and the deposit of the foundation's daily receipts, during which time he actively, fraudulently and intentionally concealed his misconduct from the foundation," the civil suit states.
In another document, attorney Paul DeMuro, representing the H.O.W. Foundation, wrote, "Mr. McGinness' credit card statements reflect that the money he was misappropriating from the foundation's checking accounts paid for cash advances from Mr. McGinness' personal credit cards that he obtained at local casinos."
The lawsuit also alleges that McGinness "has not deposited any cash earned by the foundation for several years."
On May 3, Tulsa County District Judge Rebecca Brett Nightingale found that the foundation was entitled to a $1,386,682.65 judgment in the civil case.
The sum is nearly identical to the amount the charge filed Tuesday alleges that the H.O.W. Foundation lost as a result of McGinness' conduct.
McGinness is charged by the U.S. Attorney's Office instead of by grand jury indictment. Cases prosecuted through this method normally result in guilty pleas.
Attorney Mark Lyons, representing McGinness, confirmed on Tuesday evening that a guilty plea has been negotiated.
"It's a sad situation," Lyons said, adding that McGinness "was a trusted person for a long period of time" at the H.O.W. Foundation.
He said McGinness had battled substance-abuse problems earlier in his life before letting a gambling addiction lead him astray during the 2003-2010 time frame.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Leitch said McGinness likely would face three to five years in prison if convicted. However, Lyons said McGinness, who now lives in Missouri, is in "terrible physical health" and that he will question at the eventual sentencing hearing whether imprisoning McGinness would be wise.
DeMuro issued a statement Tuesday, saying: "The H.O.W. Foundation's primary mission is, has been, and always will be to help men recover from the disease of drug and alcohol addiction. Our commitment to this mission has only been strengthened by this sad episode. We have always been fully self-supporting, declining any public funds. We remain financially sound and will continue to serve our community as a self-supporting program of recovery."
McGinness also faces a charge of filing a false 2008 federal income tax return and the possible forfeiture of more than $1.3 million.
David Harper 918-581-8359