Zurik: Non-profit's former leader arrested on theft, public records charges

Toni Rice arrested
Published: May. 7, 2018 at 8:15 PM CDT|Updated: May. 8, 2018 at 7:44 AM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - New Orleans police have arrested the subject of a FOX 8 investigation and charged her with theft by fraud.

Toni Rice surrendered to police Monday morning. Authorities say Rice, the former head of a New Orleans non-profit, stole more than $70,000 of taxpayer money.

Two and a half years ago, Rice dodged our questions about her spending at the New Orleans Multicultural Tourism Network, a non-profit that gets about $500,000 of taxpayer money every year.

Rice was president of NOMTN. 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, July 2014, records show Rice traveled to Miami for the International Multicultural Conference. There, she used the non-profit's credit card four times at the pool bar, running up a $137 tab.

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. There, she also charged $511 to "IOA ADMI". A quick search on the Internet reveals that may be associated with Universal Studios.

Rice surrendered to authorities Monday morning with her attorney, David Courcelle, who says he is reviewing the allegations with his client.

The arrest warrant says the investigation was conducted by the New Orleans inspector general and uncovered more than $70,000 misappropriated from the non-profit for Rice's personal benefit. That included 85 checks Rice issued to herself - none of those checks were for any Multicultural Tourism Network-related activity.

After our stories aired, Rice repaid about $20,000 in improper credit card charges.

The arrest warrant details checks -  not credit cards, though. A law enforcement source tells FOX 8 the charges stem only from an audit of the non-profit's 2016 finances; Rice could face additional charges if more wrongdoing is found in other years.

The case is being handled by the Orleans Parish district attorney's office, which wouldn't comment.

For the theft charge, Rice could face up to 20 years in prison.

FOX 8 received this statement from Angela Simon, chairman of NOMTN:

The New Orleans Multicultural Tourism Network is committed to fulfilling its mission to increase business opportunities at all levels of the hospitality industry and promoting New Orleans' cultural diversity. NOMTN has reformed its accounting and oversight policies to ensure the necessary controls are in place as we continue to move the organization forward. NOMTN is unable to comment on the ongoing investigation into the misappropriation of funds by the organization's former President.

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