September 1, 2015

California CPA Admits Defrauding New Jersey Religious Center, California Non-Profit of More Than $4 Million

NEWARK, NJ—A California CPA today admitted abusing his positions at a worship center in New Jersey and a non-profit in California to steal more than $4 million, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

Donald Gridiron, 51, of Pomona, California, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Kevin McNulty in Newark federal court to an information charging him with one count of wire fraud and one count of filing a false tax return.

According to documents filed in the case and statements made in court:

A religious facility located in Rahway, New Jersey, hired Gridiron based, in part, on his connections with individuals in the religious community as well as his standing within that community. The religious facility agreed to pay Gridiron a monthly salary and reimburse him for reasonable expenses related to his work. In addition, Gridiron was the treasurer for a non-profit entity registered in California.

Gridiron used his employment with the worship center and his status with the non-profit to illegally syphon money without their consent or authorization. In total, Gridiron transferred more than $4 million to accounts he controlled. Gridiron then used the funds for his own use, including mortgage payments, luxury car payments and gambling expenses. Gridiron also failed to report this income on his tax returns, including $950,000 he stole during the 2011 tax year.

The charge of wire fraud is punishable by a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. The charge of filing a false tax return is punishable by a maximum potential penalty of three years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 14, 2015.

U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Richard M. Frankel in Newark, and law enforcement officers of IRS-Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Jonathan D. Larsen, with the investigation leading to today’s plea.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Kogan of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Economic Crimes Unit in Newark.