American Legion’s missing money found in ATM accounts

Once thought to have been stolen, more than $600,000 has been found at American Legion Post 28 in Millsboro. It was in the ATM the whole time.

The related investigation has now ended, and the Delaware State Police detectives assigned to the Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) found no evidence of embezzlement.

The initial investigation suggested that “the suspects, who were Post 28 officers at the time, wrote and signed numerous checks out to CASH, cashed the checks at local banks, and the funds were not returned to or used for American Legion Post 28 business,” DGE stated in April of 2016.

But, after an extensive financial review, DGE this week announced, “These checks were to obtain cash to replenish the money in the Post’s ATM machine. In addition, ATM records for the machine reflected that withdrawals made by the accused reconciled with cash withdrawals made by patrons.”

The Delaware Attorney General’s Office also reviewed the investigation and decided there was no basis to proceed with prosecution.

“While the initial investigation established probable cause through witness statements, video surveillance and bank records, new information uncovered after the arrests disputed the evidence originally obtained and did not support the charges filed against the suspects,” DGE officials stated.

The investigation began in January of 2016, with the belief that six past or present officers might have stolen $641,100 from the veterans’ association. Five men were arrested in April. But by May, the Delaware Department of Justice had dropped the charges, without prejudice, against Samuel Mauger, James Gallagher, Edward Mazewski, Charles Nimmericher and Michael Rooney. A sixth suspect, David Yetman, was deceased.

“Additional information was made after the initial arrest was made. The goal is to get it right,” DOJ Public Information Officer Carl Kanefsky said at the time.

Gaming Enforcement got involved because some money came from slot machines, which are an important source of income for Post 28 (Oak Orchard/Riverdale).

“Throughout the investigation, DGE had the support of the American Legion membership allowing for a transparent review,” DGE stated this month. “In light of the DGE review, the Post is working to establish better internal financial controls and safeguards.”

The DGE referred questions about Legion finances to Post 28.

Officers at Post 28 were not available for comment before the Coastal Point’s press deadline this week.

Founded in 1983, Post 28 has become one of the largest in the nation and the world, with membership of more than 2,300 and a 12-acre site on Route 24, which also houses a Ladies Auxiliary and Sons of the American Legion.

But Post 28 didn’t shut down while the investigation continued. Volunteers continued their work all year, with ongoing projects, such as Christmas collections for needy families, Halloween events for children, fundraisers, dinners and dances, even earning national recognition for their service.