Scott Welker, Former SCAA Executive Sentenced to Prison for Embezzlement from Association

Long Beach, CA. U.S.A. (October 21, 2009) – The Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) announced today that former Chief Operating Officer, Scott Welker, has been sentenced to federal prison for embezzling in excess of $465,000.00 from the association. Welker’s sentence includes a 33 month jail term to begin in January, 2010, three years of probation following release from custody, and a restitution order of payment to SCAA of $467,665.73. As part of his probation order, he is barred from being employed “in any capacity wherein he has custody, control, or management of his employer’s funds.”

Welker pleaded guilty to and was convicted of “Honest Service Wire Fraud,” which includes an employee breaching a fiduciary duty owed to employer by “self-dealing.” Welker was sentenced in U.S. Federal Court, Central District of California in Santa Ana, on Monday, October 19, 2009.

Scott Welker

Just days after Welker resigned his position with SCAA in August 2005, management discovered accounting irregularities that quickly resulted in a financial crisis, taking the organization to the brink of bankruptcy. However, members of the SCAA rallied behind the association, contributing a quarter of a million dollars above and beyond their membership dues to sustain operations.

Both Ric Rhinehart, SCAA’s current Executive Director, and Ted Lingle, who was Executive Director at the time of the embezzlement, were present for the sentencing and testified on behalf of the association.

“It’s been a long four years,” said Rhinehart. “But when the judge handed down a prison sentence just a few months shy of the maximum allowed by law, I felt like justice had finally been served.”

“The wheels of justice may turn slowly at times, but they do turn,” added Lingle. “At times it felt like we were the only people who recognized that a crime had been committed. It is gratifying to me to see the justice system confirm that great harm was done and the crime deserves to be punished.”

On an entertaining side note, when searching for pictures of Scott Welker, I found that he is still a reference for Par Avion Travel, the official travel agency of the SCAA, commenting about a program offered by the company:

Scott Welker, chief operating officer of the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA), wishes this program had existed a few years ago. “It would have saved us quite a bit of money when our association had to pay attrition fees.”

Supporting statements made by convicted embezzlers about the cost effectiveness of your organization are extremely powerful. After all, he believed it was -his- money, not the association’s.