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Parkview Junior ROTC club hurt by theft

LILBURN - Parkview High's U.S. Marine Corp Junior ROTC is in "dire straits" after an alleged theft drained thousands of dollars from the self-funded program, a co-president of the group's booster board said Thursday.

But the group is determined to rebuild the program and has installed processes to prevent future losses, Mike Bennett said.

Susan Kelly, the ROTC booster board's former treasurer, has been accused of stealing money from the group by obtaining an ATM card and making unauthorized withdrawals during a three-year period, according to a Gwinnett County school police report.

The group discovered it was missing money in March, when members expected to find $11,000 in a bank account containing about $450. Bennett said the discovery was "startling."

The booster board had been attempting to bring in a new treasurer, but Bennett said Kelly consistently failed to turn over financial records. But no one questioned Kelly's spending, because she had been on the board longer than other officers, he said.

The group thinks it has lost $18,000 to $25,000, but the amount could be higher, Bennett said.

The money generated from the students' fundraisers is used to purchase uniforms and equipment and to pay for transportation, lodging and meals for the cadets.

Now the group has a new treasurer and is following new accounting practices.

"We don't want the cadets to suffer for this," Bennett said.

The students are actively involved in the community, participating in events such as Toys for Tots, Veterans' Day programs and Lilburn Daze. They also help Operation One Voice and serve often as the color guard.

"The kids are out in the community. They're involved," Bennett said. "This program ... is about character, is about leadership, is about honesty," Bennett said. "The alleged act of Sue does not detract from what the kids do."