An Indiana youth nonprofit’s former executive director is facing federal charges of using a credit card to allegedly steal $156,000 during a five-year period from the group where the estimated annual revenue during her tenure was only $137,000.
Ellen Corn, 47, pleaded not guilty following her arrest and indictment on 15 counts of wire fraud. She faces up to 20 years in federal prison if convicted. A May 8 trial date has been set, according to a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Indiana in Indianapolis.
Mentors for Youth, formerly Big Brothers Big Sisters of Dubois County, employed Corn as executive director from March 2017 through May 2022. During that period she allegedly used the Jasper, Indiana group’s credit card for unauthorized personal expenses and concealed them by not entering them into the group’s accounting software.
“Corn allegedly used the organization’s credit card to purchase goods and services from various businesses, including Amazon, Target, Walmart, and to make payments to colleges,” federal prosecutors said via a statement. Prosecutors further allege that she “used the credit card to make electronic payments from the official business PayPal account to her personal PayPal account. Once the funds appeared in her PayPal account, she transferred them to her personal checking account.”
A review of the nonprofit’s most recently available federal Form 990 filings shows Mentors for Youth took in an average of $137,348 annually during the period of Corn’s tenure. However, Corn herself is nowhere listed on the form nor is her salary shown, as required by law.
It is unclear why the information was left off or if the organization has attempted to correct it. Erin Kidwell, the group’s current executive director who took over in August 2022, declined to comment on the omission when asked about it by The NonProfit Times.
However, in a statement posted to the organization’s website, leaders are “making a conscientious effort to promote transparency” and are “grateful for the members of both our local and federal law enforcement” who carried out the investigation.
“Our mission to facilitate relationships between local youth and caring adults has positively impacted innumerable individuals in this community,” according to the statement. “As we process the news of the arrest of our former director, we remain focused on this mission.”
The statement also read that leaders have “worked hard to make substantive changes to ensure our policies and procedures will prevent this from occurring in the future.”
Mentors for Youth previously had an affiliate relationship with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America that ended in 2012, which was prior to when Corn was hired. Kidwell said the group made the decision to separate due to the prohibitive cost of new database software the national organization attempted to roll out to all its affiliates that year.