Former Bank of America exec and husband charged in embezzlement scheme involving nonprofits

Uh-oh, another executive has been caught with a hand in the proverbial cookie jar. This time it’s a former Senior Vice President of Bank of America from Boston, her husband and an associate, who were charged with embezzlement in a scheme that involved – wait for it – fraudulent donations to nonprofits in Atlanta and Boston.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts believes Palestine “Pam” Ace, 45, a former Senior Vice President of Bank of America’s Global Wealth & Investment Management Division, her husband, Jonathan R. Ace, 46, and Brianna Alexis Forde, 35, attempted to steal more than $2.7 million from the bank. All three were indicted on one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud. Palestine Ace faces 12 more charges of bank fraud as well as four counts of wire fraud. Jonathan Ace also faced two additional counts of wire fraud and one engaging in an unlawful monetary transaction. Forde likewise was indicted on two additional counts of wire fraud.

According to court records, the Defendants engaged in a scheme to defraud Bank of America under the guise of sending donations to nonprofit organizations. Palestine Ace used her high-level position at Bank of America to misappropriate funds from the company’s marketing budget and transfer the money to nonprofits. She authorized 75 transactions, each less than $50,000, to various nonprofits in Boston and Atlanta.

After transferring the funds to the nonprofits, which included groups working with children living with AIDS, the Defendants then informed the organizations much of the donated funds must be returned in order to ensure future funding from Bank of America. The funds were returned either via check to Jonathan Ace or Forde, or transferred to a bank account, to which they had access. Ace’s husband also allegedly threatened the recipients with “public humiliation” to extract the return of as much of the money as possible.

To what end would a high ranking executive couple commit such nefarious acts? Data proves time and again that “living beyond one’s means” is the number one red flag in a fraudster’s background, and sure enough, Prosecutors allege that Ace and her husband used the embezzled funds to support their lavish lifestyle and personal expenses, including extravagant birthday parties and a $17,000 Kawasaki motorcycle, in the scheme that ran from about October 2010 to April 2015.

In the five years that passed, millions were lost and Bank of America’s public image has been marred. The fallout over this multinational financial institution’s inability to monitor their own top officials with direct access to funds will no doubt be long-lasting.

Don’t be the next Bank of America: know your organization’s gaps in employee monitoring, executive-level screening and other personnel risks by partnering with an expert in the industry to educate you on best practices.