Worker stole $200,000 from Red Cross, police say


Former Red Cross Emergency Services Manager Casey Schmelz, shown in this June 23, 2013 file photo, has been charged with fraud.

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Published: Thursday, October 31, 2013 at 10:51 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, October 31, 2013 at 10:51 a.m.

Police have filed fraud charges against a former American Red Cross employee after they say she stole about $200,000 in relief money from the agency.

Gainesville Police said local Red Cross employees found fraudulent transactions that all involved an employee of five years, Casey Marie Schmelz, 29, of Gainesville. An internal audit of the cases confirmed Schmelz had been involved in about 60 cases that involved fraudulent activity, said GPD spokesperson Officer Ben Tobias in a press release.

In a statement, the Northeast Florida Chapter of the Red Cross said the organization is cooperating fully with the police, and that while the investigation is in progress, it is unable to comment, spokesperson Amber Bierfreund said.

Authorities found that Schmelz stole the money by using a system the Red Cross has to help victims. One of the ways the Red Cross administers disaster relief is by issuing debit cards to victims with a cash amount based on their emergency, which should be used to purchase food, clothing and necessities, the press release said.

Schmelz discovered the username and password of another employee who had authorization to add funds to the debit cards. Officials said Schmelz would log into the system, load funds onto a debit card and then get the cash from local ATMs, the release said.

“She was very clever,” Tobias said. “An employee reviewing satisfaction surveys from past clients became suspicious when they found aid given for emergencies that did not exist.”

Schmelz accessed a cash total of $203,648.21 since 2011. Police discovered Schmelz through the use of surveillance video, transaction history and her own statements, the press release said.

GPD’s Detective Chris King said Red Cross employees were disappointed by Schmelz and had no idea what she was doing.

“These people were like her family” King said in the press release. “She was working for a company that is designed to help others. She lost sight of that mission with her criminal behavior.”

Schmelz did not give officials an explanation for the missing money, Tobias said.

King filed a sworn affidavit with charges of grand theft and scheme to defraud, the release said.

The State Attorney’s office will determine if formal charges will be filed.

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