Zurik: Auditor says NOMTN chief committed fraud

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - An auditor says the former head of a nonprofit committed fraud. The auditor's conclusions came after FOX 8 dug up questionable spending by the president of the nonprofit, more than a year ago.

Toni Rice dodged our questions about her spending at the New Orleans Multicultural Tourism Network.

Rice ran NOMTN - a nonprofit fully funded with taxpayer dollars, about half a million each year. Our investigation found Rice made credit card charges on trips and food, with no explanation of why taxpayers needed to foot the bill.

For example, records reviewed by FOX 8 investigators show Rice traveled to Miami in July 2014 for the International Multicultural Conference. She used the nonprofit's credit card four times at the pool bar there, for a total of $137. Rice also charged an additional $90 at the hotel's main bar and rented two pool lounge chairs. Receipts show Rice made that trip with one other adult and a 10-year-old child.

Before the conference in Miami, she made two charges at the Crowne Plaza in Orlando. In Orlando, she also charged $511 to "IOA ADMI"; a quick Internet search reveals the designation may be associated with Universal Studios.

An internal auditor concluded Rice committed "fraud [with] unauthorized use of public funds."  The auditor said Rice misused $22,000 in two years.

State law requires the nonprofit to notify the legislative auditor and district attorney if public funds are been misappropriated. But the internal audit says that hasn't happened. According to the audit, no "law enforcement body" has been notified of the fraud or misappropriation.

Rice resigned from the job last year, and the audit says she wrote the nonprofit a reimbursement check for $22,000.

In the audit, the board of NOMTN says many internal policies have been changed since Rice was in charge, and the nonprofit has started to develop an anti-fraud plan.

Because of inadequacies in NOMTN's accounting records for the purpose of documenting the business purpose of reported non-payroll expenses, we were unable to form an opinion regarding the classification of the amounts in non-payroll expense categories (stated at $271,693) in the accompanying statement of activities. - excerpt from audit

Last year, we reported the New Orleans inspector general had opened an investigation into Rice's spending.  it's unclear where that investigation stands. And, though the auditor has concluded Rice may have committed fraud, it remains to be seen whether the matter will catch the attention of law enforcement.


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