Rachel Morgan, the former executive director of the Grayson Crisis Center, was arrested Wednesday morning in Massachusetts for allegedly stealing funds from the center from 2014 through 2016. The Salem Police Department took Morgan, 35, into custody at about 10 a.m. on a fugitive from justice charge due to an arrest warrant out of Sherman for theft of property more than or equal to $2,500 and less than $30,000. The arrest warrant was issued on Tuesday, and the Grayson County District Attorney's Office agreed to extradite Morgan from Massachusetts.
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Rachel Morgan, the former executive director of the Grayson Crisis Center, was arrested Wednesday morning in Massachusetts for allegedly stealing funds from the center from 2014 through 2016.
The Salem Police Department took Morgan, 35, into custody at about 10 a.m. on a fugitive from justice charge due to an arrest warrant out of Sherman for theft of property more than or equal to $2,500 and less than $30,000. The arrest warrant was issued on Tuesday, and the Grayson County District Attorney’s Office agreed to extradite Morgan from Massachusetts.
Crisis Center officials placed a report with Sherman Police on Dec. 5, alleging Morgan took about $10,000 belonging to the Center. Police detectives began an investigation later that month and discovered Morgan allegedly received reimbursements for travel, and she did not forward those funds to the center, says an arrest warrant affidavit obtained by the Herald Democrat on Wednesday. Police also found that Morgan on several occasions filed factious documents indicating travel for work-related meetings that she did not actually attend, and she allegedly received reimbursements for those fake travels, the document states.
The affidavit notes that Morgan allegedly began defrauding the Crisis Center in March 2014, and it continued until early October 2016. Police discovered Morgan received nearly $9,000 in reimbursements during this period.
Morgan pleaded not guilty Wednesday to the charge of being a fugitive from justice, and the judge in the case ordered her held without bail, The Salem News reported. Morgan opted not to fight her extradition.
Leslie Salter, a lawyer representing Morgan in court on Wednesday, asked the judge to release Morgan so she could return to Texas and address the warrant, The Salem News reported, but the judge denied that request after hearing that local officials asked that Morgan be held in custody.
Crisis Center board of director President Asa Jesse said the center was undergoing its routine audit and some items came to the board’s attention. As a part of that process, the board started to make changes internally and Morgan resigned. Then the board, Jesse said, found some circumstances members thought might be criminal in nature and turned that over to Grayson County District Attorney’s Office. That office then referred the case to the Sherman Police Department.
Morgan became the executive director of the Crisis Center in early 2011 after working five years at Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse in Palm Beach County, Florida. While in Florida, she also served as the vice president of the Homeless and Housing Alliance, and she was an active participant in the area’s Family Community Partnership and the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, according to past Herald Democrat reporting. She also previously attended Sherman High School and received a degree from the University of Tulsa.
Morgan’s move to Massachusetts
In mid-December, Healing Abuse, Working for Change — a domestic violence agency based in Salem, Massachusetts — announced they hired Morgan as its executive director. She was set to start in the position in January, according to a news release posted on the agency’s website. The release notes that Morgan served on the board of directors for the Texas Council on Family Violence and on the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault Primary Prevention Steering Committee.
Sherman Police made contact with Salem Police and informed them of the arrest warrant for Morgan, the Sherman police news release said. Salem Police Capt. Conrad Proniewski said after the warrant came in, officers apprehended Morgan without incident at her place of employment.
Paula Herrington, interim executive director at HWAC, said they were surprised by the arrest. Morgan had started working for the agency, but she had not yet assumed the executive director role. Herrington said HWAC was not made aware of a police investigation into Morgan during the hiring process.
“I’m not sure how we could have been aware, but no we weren’t,” Herrington said.
Herrington said Wednesday afternoon that Morgan did not handle any of the agency’s funds, and she’s still currently employed by the agency. The agency’s board is having an emergency meeting Thursday evening, and Herrington said they will take appropriate action.
“I would say that they’re appropriately concerned, but at this point we have so little information,” Herrington said.
The investigation begins
The affidavit states that in April 2016 a financial services coordinator for the Crisis Center discovered financial shortages and began looking into the cause. On Nov. 3, the board of directors and Morgan were notified of the findings, and Morgan resigned about two hours later.
In mid-December, Sherman detectives started investigating and found documentation of the fake travels. The affidavit listed 14 fictitious travel claims placed by Morgan in which she received in total more than $4,000 from May 2015 to September 2016. In at least three of these incidents, Morgan claimed she stayed with personnel of the related agency, the affidavit says. Police checked with the people she reported to have stayed with and they claimed she did not.
Police also checked with the locations and meetings Morgan claimed she visited; many came back as false. On two of the claims, Morgan said she attended membership meetings for a particular organization, and on five claims, she said she attended related task force meetings of the same organization. The affidavit states that a director of that organization told police that the organization did not have physical membership meetings, but they were conducted through teleconference. The director also said that Morgan was not a member of the related task force.
The affidavit also lists 13 legitimate travel claims by Morgan, which the Crisis Center paid her reimbursements. These claims involved the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault and the Texas Council on Family Violence. The affidavit notes that the two organizations also paid Morgan reimbursements for travel, which should have been given to the Crisis Center. The payments totaled $4,700, which occurred in 2014 and 2016.
Jesse said the community has always been supportive of the Crisis Center and its mission and the board hopes that the community can see that the board was in the process of improving controls at the center when the issues with Morgan were discovered. The board has continued to work to make sure the money entrusted to the Crisis Center is used in the best manner possible for its mission, he said.
Interim Director Shelli Shields said discovering the missing funds was disappointing for the staff, but they have left that situation in the hands of the board of directors and continue to focus on the center’s mission to help the victims of domestic violence.