The finance and operations manager formerly employed by a nonprofit organization having offices in Williamson and Belle has been indicted by a federal court on several counts of fraud and money laundering.
An indictment issued by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia charges Benjamin Cisco, formerly from Beech Creek, and who currently resides in Charleston, with three counts of fraud by wire, radio or television; three counts of money laundering — interstate commerce; and one count of fraud with identification documents.
He was arrested, according to federal court docket information on Feb. 22 under a sealed indictment. The document was unsealed on Feb. 23 following his arrest.
A notice of forfeiture has also been issued against Cisco in the amount of $800,000, which the indictment allegedly constitutes “the proceeds of the violations.”
According to the indictment, Cisco allegedly used his position with West Virginia VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters) to “devise a scheme to defraud (WV VOAD) and obtain money and property by means of face and fraudulent pretenses” during a period beginning on March 19, 2020, and extending until Sept. 28, 2022.
It further contends, Cisco “misused his position as finance and operations manager to fraudulently transfer funds from the charity’s bank accounts into an online fundraising platform (Flipcause) account.”
Once the money was put in the Flipcause account, the indictment states, he allegedly moved the money from Flipcause into his personal bank accounts, which he tied to the Flipcause account. The indictment further states that when creating the Flipcause account, Cisco only listed himself as the contact and Flipcause would not communicate with anyone else about the account.
As part of the scheme, Cisco allegedly told the WV VOAD board of directors and an outside accountant that the VOAD transfers were for “web services” and presented a letter purportedly from Flipcause employee “J.R.” verifying the charges. Flipcause, according to the court record, denies providing any web services to WV VOAD.
The indictment said that over the two-year period Cisco allegedly made more than 100 financial wire transfers.
Cisco was released from custody on Feb. 23 under a $10,000 unsecured appearance bond. As part of his release, the court ordered him not to open any new bank accounts or new lines of credit unless prior authorization is given by his probation officer.
According to its website, WV VOAD is an association of independent organizations that may be active in all phases of disasters. It’s mission is to identify unmet needs and to facilitate efficient and streamlined service delivery to those “imperiled or impacted by disaster while eliminating duplication” of services.
WV VOAD is the state chapter the national VOAD organization. The group responds to the four phases of disasters: Preparation, response, recovery and mitigation.