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Columbus teacher who admits to stealing $240K out on bond

Published: Dec. 22, 2021 at 7:00 PM EST
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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - A former Columbus teacher has pleaded guilty to wire fraud. A federal investigation revealed Treena Trice stole $240,000 from non-profit organizations and a local dentist office.

When Trice signed a plea agreement in November, it meant she also agreed to pay back the $240,000.

Treena Trice, a former Columbus teacher, is facing 20 years in federal prison after stealing $240,000 from several local nonprofit organizations.

“If you don’t know what you have, you just have to deal with, you know, the funds that you have in hand,” said SAMARC Co-founder, Marc Upshaw. “So we didn’t even realize that it was missing.”

A federal investigation launched in 2019 revealed the embezzlement. Here’s a breakdown of the money investigators say Trice stole:

While serving as a volunteer campaign coordinator for the Columbus branch of the United Negro College Fund, Trice stole $162,000. While she ensured UNCF received donations from bigger sponsorships with companies like Synovus, AFLAC, and W.C. Bradley, investigators say she kept smaller donations.

During her two-year employment at a local dentist office, she admits to stealing $70,000. Investigators say she also took over $7,000 from SAMARC, which hosts an annual basketball camp for underprivileged kids in Columbus, and pocketed a $200 check from the Georgia Dental Society.

Investigators say Trice fraudulently deposited 109 checks and 265 credit card transactions into her Wells Fargo accounts.

“She would take that card and swipe it and she would tell people that it was going to the SAMARC foundation,” said Upshaw. “And she was swiping on her phone and it would go directly to her account.”

On Monday, Trice pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud. However, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia says she’s currently out on bond.

“She was granted a bond by the court and so she’s subject to those terms and she will be reporting back in March for sentencing,” said Peter Leary.

As for why she did it?

“She indicated that the money that she had stolen from these non-profits and these private entities -- she had spent at casinos as part of a gambling problem,” said Leary.

Still, one of those non-profits at the center of Trice’s alleged fraud says they wish her well.

“We pray that she gets the help that she needs with her, you know, gambling addiction that she said that she had,” said Upshaw.

The plea agreement also stated it is believed Trice also allegedly stole cash donations. However those transactions couldn’t be confirmed through financial records.

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