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Ex-Red Cross accountant indicted

The woman, who worked for the O.C. chapter, is accused of taking $100,000 for personal use.

January 18, 2007|Mai Tran | Times Staff Writer

A former accountant for the American Red Cross was indicted Wednesday, accused of embezzling from the Orange County chapter more than $100,000 that authorities say she used for a trip to a Las Vegas casino, shopping sprees, an underwater camera and membership to the San Diego Zoo.

Karen Shuerger, 58, who had worked as the assistant director of accounting, was charged with five counts of mail and wire fraud.

A Red Cross employee for nearly 18 years, Shuerger took the money between 2000 and her retirement in October 2005, said Assistant U.S. Atty. Robb Adkins. "She was able to manipulate and fabricate it in the accounting entries and ledgers to conceal what she was doing," Adkins said.

Shuerger, who lived in Santa Ana and now resides in Henderson, Nev., could not be reached for comment.

Among other duties, Shuerger was in charge of ordering travelers' checks to give to employees for travel advances during disaster-relief missions.

But Shuerger ordered additional travelers' checks for her and her husband, at times in amounts of more than $20,000, Adkins said. She also used the nonprofit's credit card to pay her own credit card bills, for purchases at Sam's Town Hotel and Gambling Hall in Las Vegas and for such things as personal computers, jewelry, a San Diego Zoo membership and an underwater digital camera, Adkins said.

The alleged fraud came to light after her replacement had trouble balancing the books, Adkins said. The Red Cross called in an independent accounting investigator, who determined there was a loss and reported it to the FBI in mid-2006.

Shuerger, who has not been arrested, will be arraigned in federal court in Santa Ana on Feb. 5.

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