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Man Accused of Charity Fraud in Pa.

November 15, 2002

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BEAVER, Pa. (AP) _ The former director of a social service agency was charged with bilking it of more than $50,000, using its credit cards to buy himself everything from a drum set and grass seed to a mail-order doctoral degree.

Brian L. Bennett faced more than 800 counts of fraud and theft against Family Services of Beaver County, the state auditor general’s office said Thursday.

Bennett, who led the nonprofit group from August 1998 to June 2001, opened two credit cards in the agency’s name and used them to spend more than $13,000 on himself, including the used drum set, a leather coat, stained glass, computer printers, grass seed and pet supplies, Auditor General Robert P. Casey Jr. said.

Bennett, who now lives in Lafayette, Ind., has denied taking agency money. Defense attorney Graydon Brewer said Friday that Bennett would return to Beaver to face the charges when he gets a summons, expected at a later date.

``We want to clear up this chaos,″ Brewer said. ``He had records and information that he wanted to go over with officials. He was preparing to meet and answer those questions and they never met for whatever reason.″

Casey and Fouse’s offices conducted an investigation into Bennett’s management of Family Services that concluded Bennett charged $1,004 to an agency credit card to get a doctorate from a non-accredited school that promises diplomas based on students’ ``present knowledge and experience,″ Casey said.

The school, Harrington University, advertises on the Internet that its students do not have to read any books, go to class or sit through interviews, Casey said.

He said Bennett also failed to pay rent despite receiving $1,200 a month in reimbursements from the United Way and a government agency, the Beaver County Children and Youth Services. The agency’s new director said it owes $20,000 in back rent.

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