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Congressional Hunger Center v. Gurey

United States District Court, District of Columbia

April 5, 2018

MOHAMED H. GUREY, Defendant.



         Before the court is Plaintiff Congressional Hunger Center's Motion for Default Judgment against its former employee, Defendant Mohamed H. Gurey. Plaintiff brought this suit after discovering what it alleges was Defendant's years-long embezzlement scheme. Defendant was properly served but failed to respond to Plaintiff's three-count complaint. In response, Plaintiff obtained an entry of default and filed this Motion for Default Judgment, seeking damages in the amount of $1, 202, 334.00. See Clerk's Entry of Default as to Mohamed H. Gurey, Dec. 8, 2017; Mot. for Default J., ECF No. 10. The court now enters judgment in favor of Plaintiff.


         A. Factual History

         Defendant Mohamed H. Gurey worked for Plaintiff Congressional Hunger Center for 15 years, most recently as Plaintiff's Director of Finance. Compl. ¶ 4. His job duties included preparing Plaintiff's financial statements, monitoring payroll, preparing records for Plaintiff's annual audits, and overseeing Plaintiff's cash disbursements. Id. ¶¶ 15-16. In addition, Defendant gave information to Plaintiff's executive director about the organization's finances, which, in turn, were used by Plaintiff's Board of Directors. Id. ¶ 17.

         After an organizational restructuring in 2012, Plaintiff's executive director was responsible for supervising Defendant. See id. ¶¶ 18-19. Beginning in September 2015, that position was held by Shannon Maynard. Id. ¶ 19. Soon after the start of her tenure, Maynard slimmed the organization's budget, including by eliminating the position of Payroll & Benefits Coordinator and outsourcing financial duties to an outside vendor. Id. ¶¶ 20-21. Defendant “vocally opposed” the outsourcing of Plaintiff's payroll operations and offered to perform those tasks himself. See id. ¶ 22. Maynard agreed to assign these tasks to Plaintiff. Id. ¶ 22.

         Maynard took leave from work from June 2016 to September 2016, during which time Defendant was supervised by Plaintiff's Chief Operating Officer, Kristin Anderson. Id. ¶ 23. When Maynard returned, she noticed problems with Defendant's work, including that he was failing to meet deadlines and had multiple, unexplained absences. Id. ¶ 24. When she met with Defendant on November 2, 2016, to discuss the organization's upcoming audit, Defendant told Maynard that he had not yet completed the necessary reports. Id. ¶ 26. After learning this, Maynard pushed back the audit to the second week of December. Id. ¶ 27.

         At this same meeting, Defendant asked Maynard for 17 days of paid time off during the month of November-time off, he said, that he needed in order to complete courses that would allow him to maintain his Certified Public Accountant license. Id. ¶ 26. Maynard refused his request, explaining that the time off was too close to the audit and because Defendant had not given advance notice. See id. ¶ 28. Undeterred, Defendant called the Treasurer of the Board of Directors, Wolfgang von Maack, and asked permission to take leave. Id. ¶ 29. Plaintiff did not receive approval for his request. Id.

         About a week after Maynard's meeting with Defendant, on November 10, 2016, she met with Defendant for his annual performance review, in which she gave Defendant a critical evaluation. Id. ¶ 30. In the review, Maynard identified as areas of improvement the timeliness of Defendant's quarterly and monthly financial reports. Id. On November 14, 2016, Maynard gave Defendant a “Warning and Performance Improvement Plan, ” which reflected those deficiencies and contained a list of key tasks to be performed. Id. ¶ 31.

         Defendant failed to show up for work on December 7, 2016. Id. ¶ 32. Later that day, Maynard found in her company mailbox a letter from Defendant in which he “requested” vacation time from December 7 to December 15. Id. ¶ 33. In the letter, Defendant said he planned to return on December 16 to assist with the audit. Id. Maynard decided to fire Defendant for taking leave without permission. Id. ¶ 34.

         Plaintiff discovered Defendant's theft of organization funds when cutting off Defendant's access to its bank accounts. See id. ¶ 36. When Maynard logged into the accounts to deactivate Defendant, she discovered that the balances were “dramatically lower” than that reported on a financial statement Defendant had prepared. Id. Per Defendant's report to Maynard, Plaintiff, as of November 23, 2016, had $715, 252 on hand. Id. In actuality, the accounts contained only $137, 526-not even enough money to cover the organization's expenses for December. Id.

         The discovery spurred a review of Plaintiff's financial records. When reviewing the organization's transactions in 2015 and 2016, Maynard discovered “a number of suspicious checks, ” made out to Defendant, of amounts of more than $1, 000. Id. ¶ 37. At the time, the Plaintiff's accounting policies required that any check for more than $1, 000 be signed by two members of the organization, either Anderson and Defendant or Anderson and Maynard. Id. ¶ 38. The checks to Defendant all bore Defendant's signature and Anderson's signature. Id. ¶ 39. Anderson's signature, however, was determined to be forged. Id. The checks were dated on days when Anderson was on leave, and Anderson confirmed that she had not signed them. Id. ¶¶ 40- 41. In an investigation that followed, Plaintiff discovered Defendant had been writing unauthorized checks to himself since 2010 by forging the signature of other organization signatories. Id. ¶ 46.

         Ultimately, Plaintiff's investigation revealed that Defendant had stolen more than $1, 100, 000 from the organization. Id. In addition to forging checks, Defendant also had made repeated withdrawals of organization funds at a Maryland casino, using his company debit card. See id. ¶¶ 42-43. To cover his tracks, Defendant falsified entries in documents and failed to record transactions. See id. ¶¶ 54, 56. Defendant's theft also jeopardized Plaintiff's financial standing with lenders. The organization was unable to repay a line of credit it had previously opened by the maturity date of February 1, 2017. Id. ¶ 49-53. To avoid default, Defendant had to renegotiate the terms of the line of credit, resulting in additional costs to Plaintiff. Id. ¶¶ 48-53.

         B. ...

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