DA: Official stole funds meant for indigent care

The former president of a nonprofit organization was charged with embezzling approximately $166,000 in philanthropic donations intended to help poor hospital patients, the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office said Wednesday.

Gariel Freund, 59, of San Francisco was arrested Wednesday morning and charged with 30 felony counts of grand theft and forgery for allegedly taking general operating funds from the Auxiliary at University of San Francisco Medical Center at Mount Zion.

If true, the theft represents a major loss to the 109-year-old auxiliary. The group provides approximately $100,000 a year for patient services at the hospital, ranging from taxi vouchers for patients’ doctor visits to cancer support groups and wigs for chemotherapy patients. Freund was the volunteer president of the organization from 2002 through 2004, current auxiliary President Meridithe Mendelsohn said.

“Our patient care has suffered. We would give less or we gave fewer grants because we didn’t have access to these very important funds. Nothing like this has ever happened before,” Mendelsohn said.

The money all came from fundraisers and individual donors, Mendelsohn said.

The money was allegedly stolen using forged check signatures and an unauthorized bank card, according to the District Attorney’s Office. Freund will likely be arraigned in San Francisco Superior Court today.

A past treasurer of the group discovered the financial irregularities in July 2004, Mendelsohn said, declining to name the treasurer. His discoveries prompted UCSF to conduct an audit. The results of the audit were brought to the attention of UCSF police.

Officers believe Freund acted alone, UCSF police Capt. Torin Fischer said. A representative for Freund could not be reached by press time.

He could be imprisoned for up to 14 years and required to pay restitution if found guilty.

kwilliamson@examiner.com

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