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Sentence in forgery case will allow CAVA to close

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Citizens Against Violent Acts Inc., a nonprofit group that has been caught up in two embezzlement scandals in the past three years, finally will be able to dissolve, after its former executive director pleaded guilty to forgery and was sentenced this week.

Brenda L. Thornton, 36, West Stockholm, was arrested in December and charged with forging 10 checks from CAVA, totaling $16,000, while the group was going through bankruptcy proceedings. She made checks out to herself and forged the required second signature in order to cash them, according to the state attorney general’s office, which prosecuted the case.

She was initially charged with 11 counts of forgery and one count of grand larceny, although all but one forgery charge was dismissed when Ms. Thornton agreed to plead guilty.

Ms. Thornton has already fully repaid the stolen funds, and was sentenced Tuesday to three years of probation and ordered to pay a $750 fine.

Founded in 1982, CAVA is a nonprofit group in St. Lawrence County dedicated to aiding victims of sex crimes.

Ms. Thornton, formerly the executive director of the Potsdam Chamber of Commerce, took over as executive director of CAVA in the wake of another embezzlement scandal.

Former executive director Carrie L. Whalen resigned in May 2009, after organization board members discovered money was missing. She eventually pleaded guilty, admitting that she stole $25,000 from CAVA.

The discovery led to a state Division of Criminal Justice Services audit.

The audit uncovered several accounting errors and poor documentation that, along with the embezzlement, left CAVA badly in debt.

The organization had begun bankruptcy proceedings with an eye toward disbanding before Ms. Thornton’s theft was uncovered. The discovery of yet another case of embezzlement led to legal proceedings that delayed the official dissolution of CAVA.

Now that the legal issues have been resolved, the organization will finally be able to officially close its doors.

“We are getting ready to finalize the dissolution,” said Josephine Yang-Patyi, CAVA’s lawyer.

Renewal House has been handling sexual-assault counseling in St. Lawrence County since CAVA announced its plans to close in 2010.

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