An executive who formerly ran a Naperville-based social service agency devoted to finding homes for children with special needs fled the country days before he was charged with diverting more than $200,000 from the agency, according to authorities.
In a criminal complaint filed late last week in federal court, the
Authorities issued a warrant for his arrest Oct. 25 after a DuPage County grand jury indicted Geniesse, 50, on 10 felony counts, including theft over $100,000, related to his tenure at Our Children's Homestead. The money was used, among other things, to finance a film production company Geniesse set up, according to court records and an agency official.
He had most recently been a resident of
"Investigation determined that Geniesse fled to Frankfurt, Germany five days before the warrant was issued," FBI agent Mark Wallschlaeger wrote. "Investigation also determined that Geniesse's wife fled for Hamburg, Germany approximately one month before the warrant for Geniesse."
The social service agency he helped co-found in the mid-1990s fired him 18 months ago when the board of directors learned of possible illegalities, agency Chief Executive Officer Kurt Friedenauer said Monday. He said the board then alerted police. That prompted the investigation by the Illinois Attorney General's office that led to the charges against Geniesse, whom the office alleged stole more than $200,000.
"People here were devastated by what he did," Friedenauer said.
He said that despite the turmoil, the daily operations of the agency were not compromised. The agency is a provider of adoption services and foster care "for the neediest children in the State of Illinois," many of whom may have developmental or other issues, according to group's website.
Geniesse kept the board in the dark about a 2010 lawsuit filed against him and the agency by the former manager of its adoption department, Friedenauer said.
In the suit, the manager said she was fired when she made inquiries about Geniesse's reported diversion of agency money into a film production company he had founded called "Reverse Momentum Films."
Reverse Momentum produced a short film about poverty in the
Other people associated with the film company were authorized by Geniesse to use an agency credit card to purchase camera lenses and pay for other expenses of the film company, the suit said.
Geniesse and his company are listed on an internet database as producers of two other short films. Both center on foster care and associated issues.
The adoption manager said in the suit she was fired in May 2009 after a meeting with Geniesse and Howe to discuss her concerns that Geniesse was illegally using agency funds on the film company. The day after the meeting, the manager said Howe texted her, urging her to "be loyal to Bob!"
Friedenauer said the agency board did not know about Geniesse's film company during the time he ran the agency.
"Dishonest people can be pretty creative," Friedenauer said.
The attorney general's office said it will seek to extradite Geniesse if he can be taken into custody in Germany.
Tribune reporter Liam Ford contributed.