Pa Paulette Vang, 34, pled guilty to felony theft in front of Judge James Clark in the Ramsey County District Court on Monday, May 22, 2006.
Vang was charged for allegedly stealing more than $265,000 worth of funding to Asian Women United of Minnesota (AWUM), the only nonprofit in Minnesota with the primary focus of providing Asian-specific services for battered women and children.
AWUM is also the umbrella organization for the House of Peace Shelter, which extends its specialized services to temporarily housing women and children in crisis as a result of domestic violence.
As reported in February, Vang became involved with AWUM in 2003 during their time of transitioning with leadership. AWUM was seeking candidates for their board of directors at the time and, because of her experience working with the Hennepin County District Court’s Self Help Service Center, she was recruited as a board member.
Vang remained active as a board member through 2005, when she was appointed to the role of treasurer and began to take advantage of AWUMs’ vulnerable state of transition. The role of a board member is crucial for the governance of any nonprofit as they are held responsible for the financial, legal and moral health of the organization. She single-handedly violated all of these responsibilities.
During her year as treasurer, the auditor detected a total of $265,864 worth of questionable transactions while going through the organization’s financial statements. Vang was transferring funds into four new bank accounts she had opened under the name of the organization.
According to a current board member, Vang was already terminated, by policy, from her position as treasurer after missing three board meetings. The police were notified immediately when the discrepancies in the financials were discovered.
“Honestly, she seemed like a nice person and she was always helpful when I had clients at court. I did notice she started looking very ill – I mean, she was always quiet, but her skin was getting pale and she started to lose a lot of weight. I asked if she was okay, but she said nothing,” explained an AWUM staff when asked about Vang.
Other staff are concerned that Vang’s actions will have a negative effect on how the community perceives the organization.
“It’s already a challenge for us to gain the support of the community, since we deal with such a ‘hush hush’ issue. I just hope people understand she is one crooked person that was with a good organization and not tie her in with the rest of us. We’re here to help the women and children,” replied a longtime volunteer of the organization.
Unfortunately, none of the funds are retrievable. Vang told investigators that she had lost it all gambling at Mystic Lake Casino in Prior Lake.
Judge James Clark will sentence Vang on August 1, 2006.