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Ex-Girl Scouts official pleads guilty to embezzling $370,000

A former top official for the Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles on Wednesday pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud and one count of money laundering.

Channing Smack, 51, of Marina del Rey, was also ordered to pay about $370,000 that prosecutors say he embezzled from the youth organization known for its annual cookie sales.

Girl Scout officials say about $250,000 of that amount has already been recovered.

“We were outraged that a trusted member of our staff would violate the fundamental values we teach our girls every day,” said Carol Dedrich, the organization's chief external relations officer.

Smack had been accused by federal prosecutors of laundering $50,000 of the estimated $370,000, a federal offense that carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison.

Smack was arrested Dec. 17 after he started to cash in some of the stolen money.

According to an affidavit by FBI Special Agent Ryan Bell in support of the federal criminal complaint, Smack withdrew $64,500 on Monday, Dec. 16 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 organization's 22 Los Angeles area properties. Girl Scouts officials became suspicious of Smack's actions and hired private investigators, who uncovered his alleged connection to a private contractor who supposedly did work on the properties.

In the last two years, 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, according to the court document.

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 using the bank accounts to make deposits or withdrawals.

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?"

Smack is scheduled to be sentenced May 27.


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