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Bingo Embezzler Targets Santa Clara Vanguard

Charges have been filed against a volunteer accused of embezzling funds worth more than $50,000 dollars from the youth group, where she is a volunteer and handles the organization's $1 million dollar fundraising program. She is scheduled to appear in court next month.

According to court files, San Jose native Charlotte M. Luciani was a volunteer with the Santa Clara Vanguard, a charity youth music organization, for almost two decades and was in charge of the organization's cash rich bingo games held four times a week for the past 10 years.

Her tax filings shows that the bingo games reaped almost a million each year and represents 62% percent of Santa Clara Vanguard's $1.6 million dollars annual budget. Because of the state of the record books, it is still unclear how much money is missing from the organization's funds. When asked for their side of the story, Charlotte M. Luciani and her attorney, Michael Nichols, declined to comment on the matter.

The Santa Clara Vanguard's world wide known drum and bugle corps, which is composed of hundreds of teens and young adults from all over the world, are the main benificiaries on the money that is raised from the group's bingo games. The Vanguard has two groups, drum and bugle, which are assigned to perform in field and parade competitions all over the country each summer.

According to Dan Vannatta, The Santa Clara Vanguard's General Manager, even with the alleged embezzling of funds by Luciani, it will not affect the groups funding.

Bingo officials found anomalies in cash amounts. like forms reporting the nightly revenue not matching up with the corresponding amounts on the cash register tapes. This discovery prompted the officials to file the case against Luciani.

Vanguard Bingo Booster Club vice president, Jerry Marsalli called the Santa Clara Police on October 19 because of suspicions about Luciani. Jerry Marsalli is a retired Santa Clara police lieutenant and is a financial investigator. The probe on the anomalies of the receipts and suspicion on Luciani's involvement began at this point.

Police watched Luciani on a surveillance camera on her first day back in the office, after being away on vacation. According to one of the policemen, Sgt. Steve Hoesling, the suspect was observed taking money and placing it on the pocket of her pants.

When confronted of her misdeed, she initially said that she was only exchanging her own $100 dollar bills for smaller change. She was asked to show how much money she had in her purse and she showed $210 dollars but when officers searched her wallet, they found $1,100 dollars more.

She told the policemen that it was her common practice to remove $100 dollars bills and exchange them at the bank for the smaller $20 dollar denomination because their operations are always short of $20 dollar bills.

Charlotte Luciani was arrested on the grounds of committing the crime of grand theft in January. She posted bail of $60,000 thousand dollars for her temporary release, but she no longer volunteers for the Santa Clara Vanguard Organization.

General Manager Vannatta said that even though the case has not been heard yet, their group have already changed their way of handling bingo operations since October. The 13 member board of directors is now more active and hands on in the bingo game operations.


Monday, August 28, 2006
Patrick Simons

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