Fundraiser for Shriners hospitals robbed by Colorado-based treasurer, lawsuit alleges

The Castle Rock man accused of stealing more than $1.5 million from two nonprofit organizations pocketed at least $90,000 earmarked for Shriners Hospitals for Children, according to a newly filed lawsuit.

Bill Schwartz, 43, was indicted in April on three counts of felony theft and accused of stealing from two Denver charitable organizations while he was working as their treasurer and bookkeeper between 2014 and 2019. The indictment did not name the organizations, but on Friday, the Order of Quetzalcoatl See of the Americas sued Schwartz over alleged theft and money mismanagement.

The Order of Quetzalcoatl is a nonprofit organization that exists to raise money for Shriners Hospitals for Children, a system of nonprofit hospitals associated with The Shrine, a fraternity made up of Masons.

The order’s main purpose is to raise money for the hospitals’ patient transportation funds, and “to bring together Shrine Masons who have distinguished themselves in their service to their Shrine Temples, to promote a better understanding of the history and culture of the early inhabitants of North America through a fraternal medium, and to support its said philanthropy,” according to incorporation documents filed with the California Secretary of State.

An attorney for the order, Graham Fuller, declined to comment Monday, and Schwartz’s criminal defense attorney, Richard Tegtmeier, did not return a request for comment. Schwartz is charged with two counts of theft and a single count of money laundering.

The lawsuit says Schwartz became the order’s volunteer treasurer in October 2018 and then went on to use $90,000 of the order’s money to pay his personal credit card bills.

In May 2019, he moved about $251,000 of the order’s money into his personal foundation’s account, then the next day moved $254,000 — including the order’s $251,000 — from his foundation’s account into the El Jebel Shrine Foundation’s account, according to the lawsuit, which says Schwartz in doing so “laundered” the Order’s funds through “a purported holding company” he controlled.

No one was available to discuss the case at El Jebel Shrine on Monday and the shrine’s treasurer did not return a request for comment.

A month after making that transfer, Schwartz dissolved his personal foundation and quit the treasurer job. The Order of Quetzalcoatl did not discover his misconduct until it was approached by investigators with the Denver District Attorney’s Office, who were investigating Schwartz’s other alleged crimes and believed the order might also have been victimized.

The order’s lawsuit seeks monetary damages. Schwartz is next due to appear in Denver District Court for the criminal case on Aug. 18.

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