Former not-for-profit director accused of embezzling $147K

The former director of a southwest Indiana nonprofit that provides housing to the homeless and veterans is facing federal charges accusing her of embezzling nearly $147,000 from the agency.

Stephanie TenBarge, former director of ECHO Housing Corp., was indicted in December on three counts of theft concerning programs that receive federal funding, the Evansville Courier & Press reported.

The 71-year-old is accused of making unauthorized payments to herself and using the Evansville-based nonprofit's funds to pay for personal expenses, including lawn care and work on her home, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Indiana in the case unsealed Monday.

The alleged thefts occurred from Jan. 1, 2015, through Dec. 31, 2017, the same time that the nonprofit received federal funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Labor.

The nonprofit receives millions of dollars annually from federal, state and local taxpayer money, and owns dozens of properties that provide permanent supportive housing to formerly homeless families and veterans.

ECHO Housing filed a complaint against TenBarge in Vanderburgh Superior Court on March 13, 2018, and announced her departure from the nonprofit several days later.

The Associated Press has left a message seeking comment from TenBarge's attorney on Tuesday.

TenBarge's trial is set for April 8. She could face up to 10 years in prison and fines of up to $250,000.

ECHO Executive Director Chris Metz issued a statement to the media minutes after the Department of Justice released the indictment Monday.

"As we process the news of the arrest of our former director we are reminded that the mission of ECHO Housing, to provide housing to those living in poverty, is larger than any one team member within our organization," according to the statement. "Though saddened by this incident, we are grateful for the assistance and professionalism of local and federal law enforcement and the many partner agencies that have assisted ECHO Housing in becoming stronger and moving forward.

"While ECHO Housing cannot undo the past, we have learned from this incident and have worked both internally and externally to enact substantive operational changes that will prevent this from occurring in the future by ensuring transparency, accountability and oversight."

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