The Charity Case

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 9 (v.1)

Submitted: June 04, 2013

Reads: 58

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Submitted: June 04, 2013

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The charity president seemed to have packed up his things and left after their conversation. This wouldn’t have been a problem if it weren’t for the fact that they didn’t know which one of the people still at the event was Jason Bennett. Both Larson and Cooper agreed that he would most likely still be at the event schmoozing with the rich guests and trying to get them to part with their donation money. It would only be a mater of time before they spotted him.

 

Cooper decided to hang around in the lobby and gather her thoughts while Larson looked for Bennett inside the main room. She tried to think of creative ways to approach Bennett. Different ways to get the information that she was looking for. But there was only one question she could even think to ask: where is David?

 

Her phone rang in the middle of her thoughts. It was Andre. He’s probably discovered something about this case, Cooper thought.

 

“Yo, Coop. You have a moment?” Andre asked.

 

“Sure, what do you want?”

 

“You asked me to look into the leaders of the charity and I’ve found a lot of information. I’ll email you all of the files, but I can give you the gist of it over the phone.” Andre said. In the background Cooper could hear a bunch of feverous clicking noises in a row as he quickly brought up his main points. “There are four top dogs. You have the President Alan Woods, Vice President Jason Bennett, Treasurer Roger Hummel and Secretary Louis McNeary. Then you have seven other board members who basically just attend the meetings, vote and submit ideas.”

 

“I’ve already spoken with Alan Woods, so unless there is something questionable about his background you could probably move onto the other three.”

 

“Alan Woods’ background check came back squeaky clean. I did find something interesting about Bennett though.”

 

Cooper’s ears perked up as she heard the name of the person she was about to speak with. “Yeah?”

 

“I was going through their donation records when I noticed that Bennett had made a few donations to the charity. That in itself isn’t weird, what’s weird is the amount… way too much even for a guy like him. My first thought that payments were fake he was creatively fixing the books in order to cover up for something. So I checked the books and it looks like there is a discrepancy between the money they have recorded and what they have in their actual accounts.”

 

“Are you saying Bennett is embezzling money and faking payments to cover it up? How does that work?”

 

Cooper had never heard of faking payments to cover up embezzlement. Usually a person embezzled money by making it look like a legit payment of some kind. For example, a person could mark down that they bought a hotel room on a business trip, but instead of actually purchasing the room they just pocket the money.

 

“It’s even weirder than that, actually.” Andre started to explain. “I hacked into his bank account and there’s a record of him actually making payments.”

 

“So he stole the money, but changed his mind and decided to put the money back?”

 

“Maybe he didn’t steal the money at all. Maybe the money wasn’t even stolen by anyone. It’s possible that it was spent on something and they just wanted to keep it a secret.”

 

“I’ll have to bring this to his attention and see how he reacts, thanks for the help. I’ll tell Larson what we found out.” Cooper said.

 

Now that they had gotten urgent business out of the way, they could talk about things on a much more casual level. But usually informal conversations between Cooper and Andre were different from the sort of things that people normally talked about.

 

“You are still working with that ex-consultant?” Andre asked.

 

“Yeah. He’s been a hassle this whole time, but at least he’s contributing.” Cooper mentioned. “Remember the hotel you found out about that confirmed Parsons was having an affair? I asked Larson how he figured it out and it basically turned out to be because one of the cars was dirty and the other was clean.”

 

“Wow.”

 

“And that’s not the only incident where he’s proven his worth. The guy is a pretty much a genius when it comes to this stuff.”

 

“Makes you wonder why he’s not working with the police anymore.”

 

“I always assumed people just didn’t want to have to deal with him. The guy can be a dick sometimes, and he has this weird way of intentionally getting under your skin without getting emotional or raising his voice.” Cooper explained. “Then again, they let some nasty people stay officers or detectives just because they get the job done. I imagine they would tolerate Larson in the same way.”

 

“Maybe he’s FBI.” Andre said, much to Cooper’s surprise.

 

“What?”

 

“I’ve heard about this thing they do where they recruit local law enforcement under the guise of a small scale case when they know they will brush up against powerful organizations. It seems like it’s just the regular police investigating them for something innocent. Then all the sudden the FBI busts in and BAM… they go down for a major white collar crime.”

 

“That doesn’t make sense. I went to him asking to help on this abduction case. And I only even knew about him because of you.”

 

“These guys can be manipulative sons of bitches. You’ll be fine as long as you play along with their game. If you try to undermine their investigation, they can just off you and disappear like that.”

 

“The FBI doesn’t ‘off’ people.”

 

“I might be wrong, but just in case make sure you keep your phone on and set up my number on speed dial. That way if you get into trouble, you can push a button and I’ll have the cavalry rounded up like and sent to your location in no time.”

 

“I appreciate the sentiment, Andre, but I have to go.”

 

Cooper hung up the phone just as Larson appeared in the lobby. She never took Andre’s theories seriously, but she did wonder for a moment what Larson’s story was. The guy apparently was never a detective, so he had no formal police training. But his records showed that he had worked with them as a consultant for a decent period of time, and for whatever reason he just stopped.

 

For someone as good at this as Larson seemed to be, he could’ve made a name for himself in the crime solving field. Maybe Andre’s FBI theory looked better than she initially thought.

 

“I found the guy.” he said. When he noticed that Cooper was putting her phone up he asked, “Who was that on the phone just now?”

 

“A friend.” Cooper simply answered. “I had him look into the charity and find out as much as he could. He thinks he has found evidence of someone stealing money from the charity.”

 

“What evidence?”

 

“There is a discrepancy in their papers records verses the bank records. And suddenly Bennett is making larger than normal charity donations that might be some kind of attempt to cover it up.”

 

“That certainly makes things interesting.”

 

Cooper silently followed Larson to the place where he said he found Bennett, and he was still there. The first thing that stood out was the man’s professionally done hair and tailored, dark blue Armani suit that covered a man of average height and build. He was standing in a relatively empty part of the room having a very animated phone conversation. Larson had certainly been right about this man being a business shark. He certainly looked the part.

 

They couldn’t tell who he was talking to or what the call was about, but based on the yelling that they could hear as the two of them approached Bennett it couldn’t have been a friendly conversation. Eventually Bennett noticed Cooper and Larson heading towards him and ended the phone call.

 

Cooper decided to take the lead as they began to question the guy. “You are Jason Bennett? Vice President of Houston Foster Aide?”

 

“That’s what my nametag says. And who do I have the pleasure of speaking with?” Bennett asked.

 

“My name is Detective Cooper and this is an associate of mine.” Cooper said, motioning towards the person next to her. “His name is Thomas Larson.”

 

Bennett couldn’t hide the disappointment in his face when he realized he was speaking to a cop rather than someone who might potentially donate to the charity.

 

“How can I help the police today?” Bennett said in a sarcastic tone. He didn’t want to talk with cops and he wanted them to know it.

 

“What do you know about David Romero?” Cooper asked.

 

“I don’t even know who that is.”

 

She noticed an obvious difference in between Alan Woods and Jason Bennett. Woods carried around a binder with files of all of the members in the charity and knew who David was when she questioned him about it. Bennett on the other hand seemed to be completely oblivious to those details. Cooper couldn’t tell if he was blatantly lying or if he really didn’t know the name of one of the kids that was to be honored at this banquet.

 

“He won this year’s Right Choice award, but he didn’t show up to accept it. You are telling me that you’ve never heard of this kid?” Cooper asked.

 

“I don’t follow the day to day activities of the charity. That’s Alan’s territory, not mine.”

 

“And what exactly is your territory?”

 

“I have far more experience than Alan. So I use that business savvy to keep this charity running smoothly.”

 

“So you would say that you are the brains behind this operation while Alan is just the face?”

 

“In a sense, I am.” Bennett said proudly. “But Alan certainly has a skill set of his own. He started this charity after all and he certainly has the leadership and charisma to accomplish the things he wants. He’s set goals before that others have thought were too high and yet at the end of the year they are right on pace to meet them. Alan is very much an idealist. And he’s also the most naïve man I’ve met when it comes to how businesses are run.”

 

Cooper had expected Bennett to be more politically correct in the way he spoke. But she was stunned by how blunt he was about his views on things.

 

“This is a charity, not a business.” Cooper said.

 

“They are run just about the same though. The idea is to grow your brand so that more people donate. And when you are prominent enough in the community, people start chipping in just because they want to be associated with a popular charity.”

 

“Personally I’d rather see an organization grow on its own merits rather than on the strength of image and advertising, but that’s just me.”

 

“It would be nice if that’s how everything worked, but that’s not how it is. People don’t freely give away things for no reason. They do it to relieve guilt, or because they are somehow getting something in return. All the major charities run advertisements to get people to donate. They put on shows and get celebrities to endorse them. That’s what Alan’s weakness is; he’s all effort. He ran his charity with that mentality and as a result it couldn’t grow. He let me change a few things and as a result we grew to what we are today.”

 

“And as a result of that growth you find yourself up a few more rungs on the community ladder.” Cooper pointed out.

 

“I don’t know what your point is.”

 

“My point is that for all the things you claim to do for this charity, it’s also helped you out quite a bit. The fame of being the vice president of a major charity alone probably helped you close more business deals than you ever could before. You aren’t in this because you want to help foster kids. You just want to help yourself.”

 

“I admit that I’m benefitting from the success of the charity. I didn’t realize doing things for your own benefit was illegal.”

 

“Embezzlement is. And so is kidnapping.”

 

Cooper’s statements toward Bennett were carefully constructed and placed to get him to keep talking and dig himself a deeper hole. That way when she finally played the embezzlement card, he looked much worse after basically admitting that he cared more about himself than the charity. She didn’t expect her plan to work so well.

 

“What are you talking about?” Bennett said, although his question sounded more like ‘what do you know?’

 

“We’ve found evidence that suggests you are embezzling from the organization.”

 

“What evidence? I wasn’t even aware there was an investigation of that sort.”

 

“There isn’t one… yet.” Cooper let her words hang in the air for a moment before continuing on. “Even if there was, you don’t have anything to worry about because you are completely innocent right?”

 

Cooper was bluffing in a sense because there actually wasn’t any obvious evidence of embezzlement and there wouldn’t be an investigation. However, there certainly was something funny going on with their financial records. And she hoped Bennett, being a man who cared about his image, wouldn’t want to his charity to receive bad press and would tell us what was really going on.

 

Bennett weighed the options in his mind, and decided it was in his best interest to talk. “Ok fine. Look… it’s true that someone tried to steal from the company. But it is being handled.”

 

“Someone… as in ‘not’ you?” Cooper asked. “Then who is it?”

 

“Our treasurer. Roger Hummel. I found out the books were off and confronted Hummel about it. He confessed when I showed him the evidence against him. And I told him he would have to come up with a way to pay us back or we would turn him in.”

 

“How is he paying you back?”

 

“Monthly payments of course. And until he pays us back, I’ve taken away his access to our accounts. That evidence of embezzlement will still be there until he pays us back. So if he changes his mind, he’ll still go to prison.”

 

“Isn’t that blackmail?”

 

“I’m giving him an opportunity to redeem himself. All he has to do is pay back a little bit of the money every month--”

 

“Plus a little bit extra for ‘interest’.” Cooper said in an accusatory tone. She definitely didn’t like this guy. “It’s still blackmail. You own the guy until he can get the money back.”

 

“Good luck proving that in court.” Bennett said with s smirk on his face. “Look, if you want to send the guy to jail, that’s your prerogative. I’m doing what is in the best interest of this charity.”

 

That explained why Bennett was making larger than normal donations to the charity. He was tacking on Hummel’s monthly payment to his donation. And he could fix the records so that everything matched after Hummel paid back the money he stole.

 

“Why are you letting him pay you back? Why not just let the justice system have him?”

 

“It seems he was in the middle of his plan when we caught him so he only got away with a few thousand dollars.” Bennett explained. “No reason to get law enforcement involved and create a media nightmare.”

 

“I think you over estimate the media exposure you have. It would hardly be news if some random board member got arrested for stealing a few grand from your charity.” Cooper assured him.

 

“He’s hardly random. Hummel is the guy in the commercial that has been running on all the local stations for the past couple of months, making him effectively the face of the charity as far as the local community is concerned. If the media found out he stole money from the charity, it would certainly be bad for us. I would appreciate it if you guys didn’t press the issue. Charging the guy would do more harm to the charity than good. That’s why I’ve decided to handle it like I have. This way he gets to keep his freedom, the charity gets to keep its image, and the money he stole gets returned.”

 

She felt like it was wrong to completely overlook a crime that she knew had been committed. But it wasn’t like she had much of a choice. There currently wasn’t any hint of an investigation into the charity. They had no reason to look into it. And if she decided to pass this information onto the proper channels, they might get curious how she came across that information and wonder why she was looking into the charity in the first place. So she decided to drop it.

 

Cooper didn’t really have any other questions on the topic of embezzlement. She glanced and Larson and it was apparent that he didn’t have anything to add either. As she took a moment to consider her next move she was suddenly interrupted by her phone vibrating.

 

But it wasn’t a phone call; it was a text message from Andre. It said “Bennett received a phone call the night David disappeared. I was able to roughly trace the location where he was called and it was within a mile of the Parsons’ house.”

 

She handed her phone to Larson so he could see the message. At first she didn’t know what to make of this new information, but it was certainly huge. This was evidence that he was in the area when the abduction took place. Their earlier theory about Bennett kidnapping David was looking a lot better.

 

“You sure you don’t know about David’s disappearance?” Cooper asked.

 

“I already told you. I don’t know who the guy is.” Bennett said.

 

“He mysteriously vanished from his room two nights ago in the middle of the night. Where were you at that time?”

 

“Probably asleep. Why does that matter? I have nothing to do with this kid.”

 

“Because you received a phone call on your cell and the time and location puts you less than a mile away from where David’s house the same night he disappeared. What do you have to say about that?”

 

“Are you telling me I’m your number one suspect? I didn’t realize this was an interrogation.”

 

“You can make this a lot easier on yourself and just turn yourself in. David goes back to his family and your team of lawyers probably will get you a few months in a minimum security prison. Everyone wins.”

 

“I have nothing else to say. Either arrest me or leave. And if you have any other questions for me, you can send them to my lawyer.” Bennett said, taking a card out of his pocket and handing it to her.

 

Cooper didn’t have any more leverage left. There wasn’t really an official police investigation into David’s disappearance. She just tried to bluff again and he decided to call her on it this time.

 

She looked over at Larson again, hoping that he would jump in with some kind of insight like he had at the Parsons residence and with Woods earlier; anything that would give them a new lead or a way to revisit an old lead. But instead he just looked at the ground and remained quiet.

 

“I guess we’re done here.” Cooper reluctantly said as she unceremoniously left the room with Larson. 


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