A former Bank of America executive, her husband, and an associate allegedly embezzled about $2.7 million from the bank in an elaborate kickback scheme that ensnared several Boston and Atlanta nonprofits, according to the US attorney’s office.
Federal investigators allege that from 2010 to 2015, Palestine “Pam” Ace, 45, then a senior vice president in the Global Wealth & Investment Management division in Boston, fraudulently diverted money from the bank’s marketing budget to nonprofits, most of which were unaware of the scheme.
As a condition of a donation, Ace’s husband, Jonathan, 46, and Brianna Alexis Forde, 35, of Boston, demanded that the nonprofits give them a percentage of the money. In one case, Jonathan Ace threatened to release embarrassing photos and recordings of a nonprofit’s founder if he didn’t get a larger cut of the donation.
The Aces, of Rockland, and Forde gave nonprofit officials the impression they had private donors willing to give money, through Bank of America, but that they had to be paid a portion of the donation as a “base consultant fee” — typically 50 percent. It is unclear how much of the $2.7 million went to the nonprofits and how much was allegedly siphoned off by the Aces and Forde.
Forde is accused of helping the Aces by creating fake invoices from the nonprofits, detailing how they spent the bank’s money.
The Aces and Forde used their portion of the fraudulent donations to throw lavish birthday parties and buy a $17,000 Kawasaki motorcycle for Jonathan Ace, according to the indictment.
The seven Boston nonprofits that received the fraudulent donations worked with youth and provided community sports and educational programs. At least one Atlanta charity supported children affected by HIV/AIDS.
Most of the charities used the money for legitimate programs, according to federal investigators. But in Atlanta, the founders of three nonprofits created by relatives of the Aces diverted money to their personal accounts, according to the indictment.
Palestine Ace, her husband, and Forde were each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud. They were each also indicted on multiple counts of wire fraud.
Bank of America declined to comment. Palestine Ace and Jonathan Ace did not respond to a request for comment, and Forde declined to comment.
According to the authorities, Palestine Ace was never authorized by Bank of America to make charitable donations or sponsorships on behalf of the bank. But most of the fraudulent donations went undetected by the bank because they were under $50,000, requiring less scrutiny and approval from bank officials.
She also instructed other workers at the bank to exclude the fraudulent money transfers from their regular accounting reports to her supervisor, according to investigators.
Bank of America officials eventually became suspicious and launched an internal investigation after its systems detected that more than $178,000 in cash had been deposited into the bank account belonging to Palestine Ace’s mother, all in amounts under the federal law reporting requirements of $10,000, according to court documents.Deirdre Fernandes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @fernandesglobe.