Former Chattanooga Alhambra Shrine employee sentenced to 2 years in prison for embezzlement

Former Chattanooga Alhambra Shrine employee sentenced to 2 years in prison for embezzlement

August 10th, 2017 by Staff Report in Breaking News

The Alhambra Shrine Temple in Chattanooga, Tenn., is shown.

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

A former office manager was sentenced Wednesday to two years in federal prison for embezzling funds from the Alhambra Shrine in Chattanooga, according to a U.S. Justice Department news release.

Belinda A. Phillips, 58, of Chattanooga, was sentenced by Senior U.S. District Judge Curtis L. Collier to serve 24 months in federal prison for embezzlement from the Alhambra Shrine in Chattanooga. Phillips was also ordered to pay $120,000 in restitution and she will have three years of supervised probation upon her release from prison, the news release stated. 

Phillips had previously pleaded guilty to one count of an indictment charging her with making, uttering and possessing a forged security of an organization.

According to the plea agreement filed with U.S. District Court, Phillips was employed by Alhambra as an office manager and had control over their financial books and records, including checks and credit cards. During the time of her employment, Phillips devised a scheme to defraud and embezzle from the organization and obtain money and property for her personal use, the release stated.

Belinda A. Phillips

Belinda A. Phillips

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According to the news release, Phillips stole and converted checks drawn on Alhambra's bank accounts, forged signatures and used credit cards to make unauthorized purchases and make payments for her own benefit, including the purchase of personal goods and payment of personal bills.

Alhambra, a charitable and social fraternal unincorporated association, is an affiliate of Shriner's International. As part of its charitable activities, Alhambra supports the Shriner's Hospitals for Children, which provide free medical care to children. They maintained a transportation fund that was to be used exclusively to transport children without charge from the Chattanooga area to the Shriner's Hospitals for Children, the release said.

According to the release, Alhambra officials discovered that Phillips was siphoning funds from various accounts, including the charitable transportation account, for her own use when they were unable to pay for the transportation of a sick child who needed to fly from Chattanooga to Cincinnati for critical health care. As a result, they had to find funding elsewhere, and the treatment was delayed.

The Chattanooga Police Department and the U.S. Secret Service investigated this case and Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Neff represented the United States.