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June 16

Woman accused of stealing from charity had criminal record

A Williamson County woman accused of stealing $46,000 from a local charity had two theft convictions before she was hired, but the nonprofit didn't look at her criminal record until after she was believed to be stealing.

Lisa Dorhauer, 55 , was arrested by Williamson County sheriff's deputies Monday. She faces a felony theft charge and is accused of stealing while working as an administrative assistant for Lutheran Social Services of the South, which provides services for children, seniors and disaster victims. She is accused of embezzling money by submitting phony expense reports over a two-year period.

Dorhauer could not be reached for comment. She was released from jail Monday on a $15,000 bond.

"I think this is an isolated incident of one person who stole from the agency," spokesman Scott Carroll said. "The agency still does a lot of good work. We provide services to a lot of people who need it."

Court documents show that Dorhauer has two thefts on her record. But the information escaped the attention of Lutheran Social Services employees, even though they had records in their possession.

Carroll said the nonprofit ran a background check on Dorhauer when she was hired in 2007. It was done through the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services , which flags candidates considered to be a threat to children.

The department cleared Dorhauer for such work and attached her criminal record to the report, Carroll said. But it was not read at the nonprofit.

"The burden is on us to determine whether she's a threat to our agency," he said. "That's where we made our mistake."

Since then, the nonprofit has reviewed the criminal records of its 1,000 employees in Texas and Louisiana, Carroll said. He would not say whether other employees had criminal records. All background checks are now reviewed by the agency's chief operating officer, Carroll said. Dorhauer pleaded guilty to theft by check in 1994 and received deferred adjudication, a form of probation, for writing almost 100 hot checks over several years to businesses including Walmart, H-E-B and Albertson's. She paid about $1,800 in restitution.

In 1999 , Dorhauer pleaded no contest to misdemeanor theft after she was accused of stealing about $3,000 from the Round Rock Kiwanis Little League . She was sentenced to probation."One of her large roles was that she was in charge of the concession stand and the money," said former Williamson County Constable Gary Griffin, who was on the league's board with her. "But the money just wasn't adding up."

He said Dorhauer was well-regarded by the other board members. She was a single mom who worked as a paralegal at a law firm and seemed devoted to her son, he said. Other nonprofits have seen money disappear after failing to routinely check whether new hires had criminal records.

In 1990, Family Connections — a now-defunct nonprofit that helped children — did not perform a background check on Louanne Aponte before hiring her to work in its finance department. Aponte, who was recently sentenced to 25 years for stealing more than $1 million from Family Connections and two other charities, had convictions for stealing as much as $60,000 from two employers in the 1980s. She served four months in prison and was still on parole when she was hired at Family Connections.

Greenlights for Nonprofit Success, which provides support services and education to local charities, regularly receives inquiries from nonprofits wanting to learn more about criminal background checks, said Executive Director Matt Kouri. But he suspects that some don't investigate potential employees because of the "culture of trust" that pervades nonprofits, he said.

"That trust can often result in poor decision-making and a lack of accountability and conflict," he said. "At Greenlights, we believe in a 'trust but verify' approach to safeguarding our organizations, their resources and their clientele."

CORRECTION: This story was update to correct that Lisa Dorhaue arrested by Williamson County sheriff's deputies Monday, rather than her surrendering to deputies.

By Andrea Ball and Claire Osborn


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