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Mansion Clam House owner pleads guilty to stealing $1.3M from charities

Updated 4:40 pm, Tuesday, September 18, 2012

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  • The Mansion Clam House Restaurant, in the background, is owned by Soozi Folsom, who pleaded guilty to bank fraud in the embezzlement of more than $1.3 million from charitable foundations. Photo: Gary Jeanfaivre, File Photo / Westport News
    The Mansion Clam House Restaurant, in the background, is owned by Soozi Folsom, who pleaded guilty to bank fraud in the embezzlement of more than $1.3 million from charitable foundations. Photo: Gary Jeanfaivre, File Photo

 

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An owner of the Mansion Clam House in Westport pleaded guilty Monday to embezzling more than $1.3 million from three charitable foundations.

Soozi Folsom, 54, of Westport, waived her right to indictment and pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Vanessa L. Bryant in Hartford to one count of bank fraud, according to David Fein, the U.S. attorney for Connecticut.

Folsom, whose popular restaurant is in the Saugatuck section of Westport, also worked as the financial manager for a Westport-based accounting firm that had been retained by three charitable foundations, according to court documents.

Federal authorities and Westport police would not identify the charities.

However, citing an unnamed source, westportnow.com, a local news website with ties to town government, said the charities are Educational Foundation of America (EFA), Prentice Foundation Inc. and Ettinger Foundation Inc., three organizations represented by the accounting firm Godfrey & Allison, at 35 Church Lane, where Folsom had worked.

From approximately September 2008 to November 2011, Folsom wrote at least 124 fraudulent checks drawn on the bank accounts of the foundations and made payable to "Groundhog, LLC," an entity she controlled, Fein stated in a press release.

She forged the signature on the fraudulent checks, signing the name of an individual with signatory authority on the foundations' bank accounts, and then converted the money to her personal use, Fein said. Folsom is accused of covering up the fraud by manipulating transactions in the accounting software systems that handled the foundations' accounting and bookkeeping.

Through the scheme, Folsom stole a total of $1,385,159.82 from bank accounts belonging to the three charities, Fein said.

Bryant scheduled Folsom's sentencing for Dec. 7 when Folsom faces a maximum prison term of 30 years and a fine up to approximately $2.7 million.

At the conclusion of the court hearing, the judge turned Folsom over to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service, in part, because Fein said she transferred approximately $62,000 out of the country while aware of the federal investigation.

The case is being investigated by the Secret Service and Westport police.