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Lions Club Member in Embezzlement Scandal

It is one of the hardest working organizations and most prestigious in the county with its members raising funds for the good and betterment of the community and individuals in need. But this week the Lions Club of Belize finds itself amidst a major scandal in which one of its members has been charged for embezzling over $10,000 from the Belize Lions Zone 59.

A press release dated April 26, 2010, from the Zone Chairman, Mr. Baldemar Graniel announced that Ms. Kainie Manuel is no longer associated with the Lionism movement in Belize as her dismissal follows an unfortunate embarrassment to the efforts of Lionism in Belize.

According to the press release, sometime in March 2010, the members of Lions Zone 59 Cabinet were informed that monies raised for a past Lions member receiving medical attention in New York, USA were not delivered by the Zone Secretary. In addition, the Cabinet members were also informed that a check from the Belize Lions Zone 59, written to the Belize City Lions Club, was returned because of insufficient funds.

A complete audit and investigation into the Zone’s funds was carried out and Ms. Manuel was questioned. She confessed of embezzling and exhausting the Zone’s funds and after agreeing that she had misappropriated the Zone’s funds, Ms. Manuel signed a promissory note in which she outlined how she would repay the Lions of its funds.

After Ms. Manuel refused to comply with the promissory note she signed and continuously refusing to hand over financial documents belonging to the Belize Lions Zone 59, the Chairman of the Belize Lion Zone 59, on behalf of the Lions Organization in Belize, proceeded to file criminal charges against Ms. Manuel.

“We regret that the Lions Organization in Belize has had to go through such embarrassment by one of its members, but at the same time promise to make every effort to investigate the matter to the fullest and press charges accordingly,” stated the press release. “We want to reassure the Belizean people that despite the unfortunate incident, we remain committed to serving the nation of Belize with pride and dignity.”

Ms. Manuel was nominated and elected to serve as the Belize Lion Zone 59 Cabinet.

Secretary/Treasurer for the year 2009-2010 and as such was given the responsibility to oversee the funds pertinent to the Zone. Belize Lions Zone 59 Clubs include San Pedro Town, San Estevan, Burrell Boom, Belize City and Belmopan City.

A press release from the San Pedro Lions Club stated that its club members have also voted to expel Ms. Kainie Manuel from the local club and as a sign of solidarity the club gives full support to the ongoing criminal investigation that the Belize Lions Zone 59 has filed.

“The Lions Club, a service organization, believes in honesty, integrity and transparency and under the auspices of its 2009-2010 Board will not tolerate criminal behaviors from any of its members,” stated the press release.

According to the San Pedro Police Department, chairman of the Belize Lions Zone 59 reported that between the months of November 2009 and March 2010 a substantial amount of money went missing from the Lions’ bank account. Police investigation revealed that Ms. Manuel, treasurer for the Belize Lions Zone 59 was withdrawing monies without the Chairman’s approval. Ms. Manuel has been detained, arrested and charged for 15 counts of Theft. She appeared at the San Pedro’s Magistrates Court on Tuesday, April 27, where she pleaded not guilty and was given bail of $10,000 which she met.

Amongst all of this, another surprising press release has surfaced from Ms. Manuel’s now former employer, The San Pedro Sun. According the newspaper’s owners, Ron and Tamara Sniffin, on June, 2008, Ms. Kainie Manuel confessed to embezzling over $50,000 from the business over a period of three years.

She was given the opportunity to redeem herself and repay the amount embezzled and the San Pedro Sun gave Ms. Manuel the option to enter a binding, legal agreement in lieu of pressing criminal charges. Two months later, in August, 2008 the contract, drafted by Barrow and Williams Attorneys-at-Law, was signed by all parties and filed with the Supreme Court.

The press release goes on to say that in July, 2009, based on non-compliance with her contract and within the binding agreement, The San Pedro Sun began to retain her salary in full to expedite the repayment process. But with only a portion of the debt paid, the Sun reports that Ms. Manuel has since then been in violation of the contract on several occasions and has admitted to embezzling at least an additional $7,000 from the company and misrepresenting the company on her behalf.

“In light of Ms. Manuel’s indiscretions with the Belize LIONS Zone 59, as well as an ongoing investigation of additional criminal acts, The San Pedro Sun has the legal right to terminate the contract and press criminal charges accordingly, which they are in the process of doing so,” concluded the press release.

Photo by Channel 5

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