Glendale woman gets prison term for stealing from a charity

A Glendale woman has been sentenced to two years in prison for stealing funds from a non-profit cancer support charity.

- The money was supposed to go to people fighting cancer, instead it went into this woman's pocket.

Melissa Talal was caught stealing thousands of dollars in donations from a cancer charity she worked for and on Monday, she was sentenced to two years behind bars for the crime.

The charity is working to get back on its feet, but they say Talal's arrest is making potential donors a bit skittish. It's been almost five years since the group uncovered her scheme.

Even so, they are still trying to repair the damage that's been done and they're hoping their loss will serve as a warning to others.

"The true victims other than our organization are those with cancer," said Debbie DiCarlo.

That's how the leaders of  Cancer Support Community Arizona are feeling right now. The local non-profit, which serves more than 11,000 patients and their families, is trying to repair its image, after one of their own was convicted of stealing from them.

Talal, 42, who was in charge of the organization's bookkeeping for five years, was convicted of embezzling nearly $200,000 to spend on herself. She bought clothing, concert tickets and even gave herself a pay raise.

"There were not any signs that she was going to do this," said DiCarlo.

But that soon changed, when the group discovered that numbers weren't adding up. They immediately notified the Attorney General's office, which began investigating Talal and uncovered her scheme.

"Unfortunately, she was a trusted staff member," said DiCarlo. "And there was not double oversight on her activities because she was trusted."

Trust -- that has now been tarnished for both. 

Cancer Support Community has been working for years to repair the damage done and they say this has cast a dark shadow over them, but don't expect that this will keep them from helping more cancer patients around the valley.

"We did not let this destroy us. Our mission to serve those with cancer, their families and caregivers has never been more lived in our staff and with our community partners," said DiCarlo. "We had to make up lost ground and that's what were doing. Making up lost ground."

A restitution hearing is coming up that will decide if the group will get most of that money back. 

In the meantime, if you'd like to help: Cancer Support Community Arizonahttp://cscaz.org


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