Top Girl Scouts official charged by FBI with embezzling $370,000

Federal authorities claim a top official for the Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles embezzled about $370,000 from the youth organization known for its annual cookie sales.

Channing Smack, 51, of Marina del Rey, was due Wednesday in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom after being arrested on federal money laundering charges.

Federal prosecutors charged Smack, a high-ranking property manager for the Girl Scouts, with laundering $50,000 of the sum, a federal offense that carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison.

Smack was arrested Tuesday by the FBI after he started to turn some of the allegedly stolen money into cash as the agency confronted him.

According to an affidavit by FBI Special Agent Ryan Bell in support of the federal criminal complaint, Smack allegedly withdrew $64,500 Monday from accounts believed to contain proceeds from the scheme.

The alleged withdrawal occurred an hour after he was confronted by FBI agents, authorities said.

Smack was responsible for managing the Girl Scouts L.A.'s 22 properties in the Los Angeles area. Officials with the Girl Scouts became suspicious of Smack's actions and hired private investigators, who uncovered his alleged connection to a private contractor that supposedly did work on the properties.

During the last year and a half, Smack approved invoices for services supposedly provided by a firm called ZB Land Maintenance & Engineering, which is registered under the name of Smack’s deceased brother, Zachary Bryan Smack, according to an affidavit in the case.

The Girl Scouts issued 23 checks to ZB that totaled $368,278 between August 2012 and October 2013, court records allege.

FBI agents obtained evidence showing  most of the checks to ZB were deposited into one of two bank accounts opened under the names of the company and Smack’s deceased brother.

According to the affidavit, bank surveillance photographs show an individual who looks like Smack either depositing or withdrawing funds into or from these bank accounts.

Federal authorities served seizure warrants on three bank accounts believed to contain embezzled funds -– the ZB account and two personal accounts in Smack’s name, into which he is believed to have transferred funds derived from the Girl Scouts checks.

During an hour-long interview Dec. 16, when he was confronted by FBI agents, Smack asked FBI agents: "What am I looking at?"

When agents asked what he meant by that, Smack answered, "Am I going away for life?"

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richard.winton@latimes.com

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