Irons woman charged with embezzling senior center funds

PEACOCK TWP. — A suspect is in custody charged with embezzling money from the Northwest Senior Center in Peacock Township.

The suspect’s name is Kathleen Cleo-Marie Varney. She was a part-time employee at the senior center who had access to a checkbook the facility used for its senior meals program.

Kathleen Cleo-Marie Varney (Courtesy photo)

Kathleen Cleo-Marie Varney (Courtesy photo)

“She had been working at the senior center doing odd jobs, when the employee who handled the checkbook for the senior center got sick. The suspect volunteered to take over those responsibilities,” said Lake County Sheriff Dennis Robinson. “Some time later, in June, the senior center’s accountant called the staff and told them something didn’t look right with their finances. Deposits weren’t being made and checks were being cashed in places they shouldn’t have been.”

It was revealed money had been improperly used during the course of a 13-month period. The senior center contacted the Lake County Sheriff’s Department, which began to look into the matter. Within a few days, deputies spoke to Varney and questioned her about the matter.

“As the suspect was in charge of the checkbook, we looked at her pretty quickly,” said Robinson. “She was the one handling the suspicious transactions and when we talked to her, she confessed.”

Varney was officially arrested and lodged in the Lake County Jail on July 6. She was arraigned the following day. It is unknown exactly how much money was embezzled from the senior center, however Varney was charged with Embezzling – $1,000 to $20,000 – nonprofit. Her bond was set at $10,000, 10 percent, but she had not posted it as of July 11.

“We will request restitution through the court proceedings in the amount she improperly obtained should she be convicted and the judge rules she’s responsible for restitution,” explained Lake County Victims Rights Advocate James Holden. “If the judge does reach that conclusion, the collections department here in the courthouse would handle how that is done.”

The Lake County Sheriff’s Department, as well as many local residents, have voiced concern in recent months regarding scams aimed at senior citizens. Robinson said although targeting a senior center instead of the seniors themselves is more unusual, this incident is proof those concerns are real.

“We were up at the senior center last month talking to seniors about phone scams and other ways people can target seniors,” said Robinson. “We want to be trusting of everyone, but many seniors can be vulnerable to people willing to take advantage of them.”

Varney will make her next court appearance on Tuesday, July 19.

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Posted by Brendan Losinski

Brendan is the reporter for the Lake County Star. He works in the office in Baldwin and can be reached at (231) 745-4635 and by email at blosinski@pioneergroup.com.

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