A place built on loyalty, honor and brotherhood is reeling from the ultimate betrayal by one of their own. Members of the Golden Valley VFW say they were angered to hear their former bookkeeper, Becky Heald, had allegedly stolen money behind their backs.
Heald was an employee at Post 7051 for 25 years. Post leaders say, during the last five of those years, she took more than $200,000 from the organization.
"She was very slick," says former Post Commander Dennis Westly. "She always had answers. Wherever the money was going or whatever, she made the spreadsheets out, the whole works."
VFW members say neither auditors nor the bank ever caught on to her scams. Members became suspicious when they noticed money was missing.
Post leaders set up hidden cameras that caught Heald taking cash from a safe. She resigned last June.
Soon after, members realized she had been taking more than just petty cash. She was forging checks, some to the tune of $1,000 and higher. Bank records show she was taking tens of thousands of dollars a year. The post, which celebrated its 50th anniversary, almost had to shut its doors.
"In the last year or two years we had to really cut back [on donating to organizations] because the funding wasn’t there and we were losing money," says current Post Commander, Cookie Rivera. "There were a few members that were able to step up to give us loans to keep us going and that was very appreciated and that’s probably why we’re still here."
Heald told police she stole the money to support a gambling habit. The statute of limitations only allows police to investigate theft from the last five years. VFW members say they believe this has been going on for much longer than that.
"It goes to shoes me how much respect she had for the organization," says Westly. "Zero."
The Golden Valley VFW now has a new bookkeeper and a new auditing system to ensure this never happens again. Members say it will take time for their finances to recover. The same goes for their trust.
"I definitely couldn't forgive her," says Westly. "I'll tell you that."
February 2, 2012