It is not the type of news any media house or employer for that matter wants to print, but regardless of affiliation The San Pedro Sun will report the news, even when it is about one of our own.
News first broke of the situation on Monday, April 26th when Kainie Manuel, a reporter for The San Pedro Sun since Jan. 2004 was featured in an interview on Channel 5. In the interview Ms. Manuel admitted to embezzling over $45,000 from The San Pedro Sun and complained that her employer forced her into signing a binding re-payment agreement in lieu of pressing criminal charges against her. Manuel claimed that her earnings were withheld for close to two years and in an act of desperation she found herself “indebted” to the Lions Zone 59 for an undisclosed amount of money.
In a press release issued the same day by Valdemar Graniel, Chairman for Lions Zone 59, (which represents all four Lions Clubs country wide), it was stated that Ms. Manuel was elected to serve as the Belize Lion Zone 59 Cabinet Secretary/Treasurer for the year 2009-2010 and given the responsibility to oversee the funds pertinent to the Zone. Sometime in March 2010, the members of Lions Zone 59 Cabinet were informed that monies raised for a past Lions member receiving medical attention in New York, USA were not delivered by the Zone Secretary. In addition, the Cabinet members were also informed that a check from the Belize Lions Zone 59, written to the Belize City Lions Club, was returned because of insufficient funds.
As a result, the Cabinet voted that the Belize Lions Zone 59 carry out a complete audit and investigation into the Zone’s funds. As part of the audit and investigation, Ms. Manuel was questioned and she confessed in embezzling and exhausting the Zone’s funds. After agreeing she had misappropriated the Zone’s funds, Ms. Manuel signed a promissory note in which she outlined how she would repay the Zone of its funds. Ms. Manuel refused to comply with the promissory note she signed and continuously refused to hand over financial documents belonging to the Belize Lions Zone 59. As such the Chairman of the Belize Lion Zone 59, on behalf of the Lions Organization in Belize, proceeded to file criminal charges against Ms. Manuel. This was confirmed in a report issued by the San Pedro Police on April 27th, where it stated that based on Mr. Graniel’s report, a police investigation revealed that Ms. Manuel was withdrawing monies without the chairman’s approval. Ms. Manuel was detained, arrested and charged for 15 counts of Theft.
On Tuesday, April 27th Ms. Manuel appeared in San Pedro Magistrate’s Court where she was charged with 15 counts of theft from the Lions Zone 59. Manuel pleaded not guilty and was given bail of $10,000, along with a $10,000 surety, which she met. She is scheduled to return to court on May 26th and it is reported that she embezzled over $10,000 from the Lions Zone.
Consequently, The San Pedro Sun also issued a press release on April 26th stating that in June, 2008 Ms. Manuel had confessed to embezzling over $50,000 from the business over a period of three years. In an attempt to give Ms. Manuel the opportunity to redeem herself, as well as repay the amount embezzled, The San Pedro Sun owners, Ron and Tamara Sniffin gave Ms. Manuel the option to enter a binding, legal agreement in lieu of pressing criminal charges. Two months later, in August, 2008 the contract, drafted by Barrow and Williams Attorneys-at-Law, was signed by all parties and filed with the Supreme Court.
Manuel remained to be paid her full salary of $452/week until March 2009 when her wages were garnished by $200/week. In July, 2009 based on non-compliance with her contract, and within the binding agreement The San Pedro Sun began to retain her salary in full to expedite the repayment process. Although a portion of her debt has been paid, there remains a balance of over $45,000.
Since then Ms. Manuel has been in violation of the contract on several occasions and has admitted to embezzling at least an additional $7,000 from the company and misrepresenting the company on her behalf. In light of Ms. Manuel’s indiscretions with the Belize Lions Zone 59, as well as an on-going investigation of additional criminal acts, The San Pedro Sun had the legal right to terminate the contract and press criminal charges accordingly.
A third press release was issued the same day by the San Pedro Lions Club. The release stated that during its regular membership meeting on April 22nd 2010, the Club members voted to expel Ms. Manuel as a member of its Club. The motion came after Ms. Manuel was released as the Lion Zone 59 Secretary after she was found embezzling funds from the Zone’s Bank Account. As a sign of solidarity, the San Pedro Lions Club moved to give full support to the ongoing criminal investigation that the Lion Zone 59 has filed. The Lions Club, a service organization, believes in honesty, integrity and transparency and under the auspices of its 2009-2010 Board will not tolerate criminal behaviors from any of its members and remain committed in serving the community with pride and integrity. San Pedro Lions Club President Melanie Paz also wishes to clarify that the monies embezzled by Ms. Manuel were from the Belize Zone 59 account and not the San Pedro Lions Club.
In closing SPSUN Editor/Owner Tamara Sniffin states, “We gave Ms. Manuel every opportunity to right her wrongs, and it is ridiculous that she now claims to be a “victim” of her own wrong doings. Time and time again Ms. Manuel violated the conditions of the contract she agreed to sign (which she had two months to review) and we gave her that option instead of going to jail. She continued to misappropriate funds AFTER the fact and operated in a deceptive manner. There were many options she could have taken to resolve her situation when we began to retain her salary in full, she could have lived at home and not pay rent, and she could have taken a second job to help with her expenses, she choose not to do either. Resorting to stealing money from the Lions Zone 59 (or anyone for that matter) is never, ever a justifiable excuse. Ms. Manuel and her family have been close family friends of ours for decades and it is heartbreaking that we have had to take these measures. We made a mistake in giving her more chances than she deserved and now we are paying for it dearly.”
The San Pedro Sun filed a full report to the San Pedro Police department on Wednesday morning and once the report has been fully reviewed charges will be made against Ms. Manuel accordingly.