Rodeo Austin accountant accused of stealing $1.3M from nonprofit

Austin

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — A former Rodeo Austin employee is accused of stealing more than a million dollars from the organization. KXAN Lead Investigator Brian Collister spoke directly with the suspect who claims a disease and medication led him to steal.

Until a few months ago, Mark Weston, a certified public accountant, was Rodeo Austin’s finance manager since being hired in 2014. According to a lawsuit filed against Weston, the nonprofit discovered there were “discrepancies in its financial accounts” in June of 2016.

In a signed legal agreement, Weston confessed to using Rodeo Austin’s accounts, including corporate credit cards, for his personal use, and misappropriating funds. Weston said he’d pay back $850,000.

But according to the nonprofit’s latest IRS filing the actual amount missing is $1.3 million. Rodeo Austin’s CEO says the number rose when a forensic auditor completed a full review of the books, which was after Weston signed the agreement.

Mark Weston in an interview with KXAN in 2013 for an unrelated story (KXAN Photo)

“Total recoveries, including insurance proceed, are just in the neighborhood of $400,000. And we have exhausted all remedies and collection efforts at this point. So I don’t see that number changing dramatically,” said Rodeo Austin CEO Rob Golding.

As for Weston, he now owns a shutter company in northwest Austin. His door was locked when we went by but he pulled up as KXAN was there. When asked if he had a comment about the accusations, he responded with a, “No comment.”

Later in a written statement, Weston’s attorney told KXAN the 39-year-old suffers from Parkinson’s disease and was prescribed Requip, a drug that caused obsessive-compulsive disorder and led to his uncontrollable compulsive spending.

“With Mr. Weston’s knowledge of accounting, especially forensic accounting, he could have very easily hidden the theft of funds,” said his attorney Alberto Garcia in a statement. “Yet, all he did was in the open that any first year accountant could have easily discovered.”

Prior to the medication-which he no longer takes-Weston’s attorney said his client has never had any issues with handling financials prior to the drug and is working on paying the money back. He has currently paid back around $250,000.

“Unfortunately, this is a prime example of modern medicine at times treating an ailment that may result in unintended serious consequences and results on the human mind and body,” continued Weston’s statement.

But a source familiar with the case tells KXAN Weston never mentioned any medical or medicine-related issues when he confessed.

Meanwhile, Rodeo Austin says the theft has impacted its cash reserves. “It’s impacted our ability to go do new events and take on new challenges that we’re necessarily budgeted. So we’re kind of operating in a lean and mean fashion trying to do more with less,” said Golding.

The Texas State Board of Public Accountancy which oversees certified public accountants says it was unaware of the theft report and lawsuit but now that KXAN brought it to their attention, it’s now investigating, which means Weston could lose his ability to be a CPA.

As for the criminal case, it has been sent to the Travis County District Attorney’s Office to be presented to a grand jury for possible charges.

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