FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
30 April 2019
Contact: Kim Springsdorf, SRI Exec. Dir.
Owosso, Mich. – The Steam Railroading Institute today announces the results of an audit and preliminary investigation that show a former employee embezzled approximately $200,000 from the organization over a nearly two-year period.
Mary Lombardo, former SRI Financial Director, used a variety of methods to steal the money from SRI by directing it through multiple PayPal accounts to her personal bank accounts, arranging sole responsibility for multiple credit cards and falsifying financial reports to cover up the discrepancies. She used the funds to purchase gas, groceries, and many personal items for herself and her family in Michigan as well as other states, among other things.
SRI leadership first became aware of the issue at its July 2018 board meeting. A full audit was approved by the board for FY18 utilizing the professional services of Andrews Hooper & Pavlik. As it conducted its work, however, AHP determined there were financial discrepancies going back to 2016. AHP then had to change to a forensic audit, which it recently completed and turned over to Owosso Public Safety investigators. OPS has been conducting its investigation and has determined criminal charges are warranted. Investigations have uncovered approximately $200,000 in potentially illegal activities by Lombardo.
The investigation is now in the hands of Shiawassee County Prosecutor Deana Finnegan. She is working with OPS Detective Sargent Rusty Lamay, who has been handling the case.
“Obviously this is a sad day for all of us here at SRI. We had every reason to trust Mary. It’s a very unfortunate set of circumstances,” said Steam Railroading Institute Executive Director Kim Springsdorf. “We’ll continue to work closely with the authorities to bring justice to this situation.”
Springsdorf explained that Lombardo was instructed by the board at its July 2018 meeting to turn over missing documentation and work with a third-party bookkeeper to provide Springsdorf and AHP what it would need for the audit. Unfortunately, she did not comply but instead wiped clean SRI’s accounting system the next week while Springsdorf was on vacation and did her best to erase any paper trails, then resigned before Springsdorf returned from vacation.
Lombardo and other staff had stepped forward to take on more responsibilities while Springsdorf was dealing with an extended personal illness in 2017 and early 2018.
“It’s still hard to believe she would take advantage of that situation; a time when our whole team was pulling together to ensure everything continued to run smoothly for our patrons, staff and volunteers,” continued Springsdorf.
New accounting practices have been put into place since last summer to ensure something similar doesn’t happen again, according to Springsdorf.
“We sincerely our hope that our followers will understand this terribly unfortunate situation is not representative of the integrity of the Steam Railroading Institute and who we are as an organization,” she shared.
Because the investigation is still ongoing, more details may emerge that could be announced later. No one else related to SRI is being investigated.
“The good news is we are the strongest we’ve ever been as an organization. We’re very stable financially, even with the embezzlement. We continue to build partnerships with communities and organizations so we can expand our programming and fulfill our mission of keeping steam-era railroading alive for future generations,” added Springsdorf, who joined the organization in 2015 when it was in serious financial trouble. “I’m proud of the people who work and volunteer here. I’m thankful for our members, donors, railroad industry partners and our community for their ongoing support.”