Former food bank director arrested
Jan. 19, 2013 @ 03:58 PM
HUNTINGTON — A Huntington woman has been arrested on charges that she embezzled more than $23,000 from the Huntington Area Food Bank following an investigation by the West Virginia State Police.
The 17-count indictment identifies the defendant as Leigh Anne Zappin, the agency's former executive director. She had worked there since 2008, first under a community service program for a prior embezzlement conviction and then as its leader from fall 2010 to Oct. 3, 2012.
The indictment charges Zappin, 56, with a single count of embezzlement and eight counts each of forgery and uttering.
Zappin was arrested without incident Friday at her home along Washington Boulevard by state troopers, according to Sgt. G.N. Losh. She was incarcerated at the Western Regional Jail at 10:10 p.m. Her bond was set at $100,000.
The food bank serves 290 agencies that help hungry people in a 17-county area in the Tri-State. The nonprofit organization processes $900,000 in cash donations, U.S. Department of Agriculture funds and grants annually as part of its overall $6 million budget, including monetary values assessed to food.
Huntington defense attorney Chad Hatcher confirmed Friday he had filed a notice of appearance in the case, meaning he will represent Zappin.
Hatcher had no comment on the case Friday night. The Cabell County Prosecutor's office also declined to comment.
The indictment marks Zappin's third encounter with allegations that she took money from an employer. Prior court cases involved thousands of dollars taken from Chic Wigs in Barboursville and Ferguson Land Co. in Huntington.
Board members at the food bank were aware of Zappin's history at Chic Wigs upon her hiring and stood by the decision to name her director upon learning about issues at Ferguson Land Co., according to an early 2011 interview with board president Stanley Mills, who did not return calls for comment Friday night. The Ferguson case involved a civil lawsuit and no criminal charges.
"She's done nothing but a sterling job for us," Mills said at the time. "All our funds are accounted for and spent as wisely as we can. And, we have systems in place that would not allow any type of monkey business."
Problems began nearly a year later, according to the indictment. It charges Zappin embezzled $23,700 from Jan. 22, 2012, to Sept. 21, 2012. She cited medical reasons in tendering her resignation the following week, a move confirmed by the board Oct. 3.
Indications are the majority of the embezzlement scheme was fueled with a series of eight checks forged and uttered totaling $22,820.26, according to the indictment. It presents no details as to the mechanism used to embezzle the remaining $879.74.
The indictment charges Zappin uttered each of the checks using the forged signature of board treasurer Ann Kipp and then presenting the check to employees at J.P. Morgan Chase Bank. Six were made payable to Zappin, while the indictment charges she made the first and third forgeries payable "J.P. Morgan Chase Bank" or "Chase Bank" respectively.
The amounts were $7,500 on April 30; $976.64 on June 4; $3,200 on June 21; $3,000 on July 12; $2,250 on July 22; $4,384.80 on Aug. 14; $743.82 on Aug. 23; and $765 on Sept. 4, according to the indictment.
Those dates indicate Zappin passed forgeries twice a month in June, July and August. The July incidents, which totaled $5,250, had consecutive check numbers, No. 8520 and No. 8521.