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Former nature center director charged with embezzlement

David Kieft. Facebook photo.

By Judy Reed

David Kieft, the former director of Howard Christensen Nature Center, was charged Wednesday with embezzling money from the center. The Michigan State Treasury and the IRS have also opened their own investigation into his financial activities while director there.

Kieft, of Kent City, was employed at the HCNC, located in Tyrone Township, for about four years. He resigned on August 28, 2017, reportedly because he had opened a new business (Ridgetown Grub, in Sparta) and wanted to spend more time there and with his family. Upon his resignation, one of the board members noticed that some of the bills had not been paid, and began digging into all the financial activities of Kieft. On September 3, the board member called the Kent County Sheriff Department to report he had embezzled funds.

Kieft reportedly wrote himself numerous checks, which he made out to unregistered businesses, and used the Nature Center Paypal account to purchase a multitude of items for himself and his businesses. The investigation found a minimum of $4,000 to $5,000 in misappropriated funds, mainly through the Paypal account.

The IRS and Michigan State Treasury investigations are separate from the Kent County Sheriff investigation, and more charges could eventually be leveled on Kieft.

He was arraigned on Wednesday, February 28, in 63rd District Court, on one charge of embezzlement of over $1,000, but under $20,000, of a non-profit or charity. Bond was set at $1,000 and he bonded out. His next appearance in court is a probable cause hearing scheduled for March 12, at 10 a.m.

Under the charge, which is a felony, he could face up to 10 years in prison, or a fine of not more than $15,000 or three times the value of the money or property embezzled, whichever is greater, or both imprisonment and a fine.

Bruce Mayeda, President of the Board of Directors at the Nature Center, gave us this statement on the arrest of Kieft: “On behalf of Howard Christensen Nature Center, we are cooperating fully with the Sheriffs department, but we cannot comment on an on going investigation of a former employee. We are open! We are under new management and we have some really fun events coming up. We would love to see you all come out and show your support. You can find our event schedule at our website, howardchristensen.org.”

The Nature Center is located at 16190 Red Pine Dr. Kent City, MI 49330. 

The Center is also looking for donors to help sustain the center. You can visit them online at www.howardchristensen.org to donate.

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