ADAMS — The former head of the Susan B. Anthony Birthplace Museum has been accused of embezzling $31,000 from the nonprofit over a period of nearly three years.
Colleen Janz, 45, of Florida, was arraigned on a larceny charge earlier this month in Northern Berkshire District Court.
Janz served as executive director of the museum from July 2012 until she was fired on July 23, 2018, according to Carol Crossed, president of the museum's board of directors.
"We were devastated," Crossed said. "We trusted her. She was a friend. We gave her bonuses and personal gifts."
The museum on East Road in Adams marks the birthplace of suffragist Susan B. Anthony in 1820.
Janz used a variety of tactics to divert museum money, including forging documents and falsifying records, amounting to 340 unauthorized transactions, according to court documents. She spent money on items and services including meals, jewelry, Six Flags tickets, Uber rides, wood pellets, air travel, payments to a cruise line and a satellite TV company, car insurance and groceries.
Crossed said that the board became suspicious when a vendor called and asked for his bill to be paid. She discovered that Janz had not paid the vendor and had lied to him about a fictitious robbery of $8,000 from the museum to buy more time to pay the outstanding bill.
Museum leadership then hired two public accountant firms to go over the books, and both found that approximately $31,000 was unaccounted for "in suspicious transactions neither authorized by the board nor related to legitimate expenses on behalf of the museum," according to the probable cause report.
Shortly after that, Janz was fired and a full investigation was opened. Automatic withdrawals from the museum's accounts continued to pay Janz's car insurance for a few months after her termination.
"We are a nonprofit," Crossed said. "The money belongs to the museum, so she's basically charged with stealing from the public."
Janz's attorney, Robert Kinzer, did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
After the revelations, the museum sent out apology letters to its donors and instituted new protocols for handling money and watching the books more closely.
In addition to the money allegedly stolen, the museum also had to spend another $20,000 on the audits and other accounting costs. Its annual operating budget is roughly $125,000.
Janz has pleaded not guilty to a charge of larceny over $1,200 by single scheme, which carries a prison sentence of two to five years and a fine of up to $20,000 if convicted. A pretrial hearing is set for early December.
"It was quite a shock because we considered Colleen a friend," said museum volunteer manager John Green.
Crossed noted that she isn't sure whether the museum will ever see restitution, but she is holding out hope.
"That would be wonderful," she said.
Scott Stafford can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-629-4517.