Ashley Furst, former director of communications for the American Horse Council and former Maryland-resident, and her husband Christopher Furst have been named in a federal lawsuit for allegedly stealing nearly $600,000 from AHC over the course of five years. The case is also under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
According to public document Civil Action No. 1:18-CV, filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado on Tuesday, September 26, “While she was employed by the American Horse Council Inc., Defendant Ashley Furst orchestrated a complex and carefully-planned criminal enterprise whereby she stole at least $588,061.84 from the non-profit organization and its charitable foundation over the course of nearly five years. She attempted to cover up her theft by hiding information from management, falsifying bank statements and payroll documents, and applying for an unauthorized loan intended to replenish stolen funds. Defendant Ashley Furst used the stolen money to support a lavish lifestyle and make large purchases. To date, Defendant Ashley Furst continues to conceal her fraud.”
The suit was brought by the American Horse Council and the American Horse Council Foundation. Furst was first hired by AHC in 2010 as an office administrator, working in their Washington, DC office. Over time her responsibilities grew into the role of communications director. In 2017, she moved to Colorado and signed a telecommuting agreement with AHC to allow her to work from her home there. She had access to various company records including banking, payroll and its QuickBooks accounting system.
The suit states that Furst began taking funds from AHC in 2013 by electronic bank transfers to pay off personal loans and credit cards. The suit continues with claims that she falsified bank statements, QuickBooks entries and W-2 forms. According to the document, she also gave herself a raise to change her annual salary from $60,000 to $87,000. Various checks that she wrote herself were signed with a stamp bearing the signature of former AHC President Jay Hickey, which he states he never issued. By AHC company policy, two signatures were needed for all checks and Furst never had sole check signing authority. All of this fraudulent behavior would have been noted and realized by management quicker if they were to use the likes of one of the best payroll company options available that incorporate anti-payroll fraud systems within their payroll software to highlight salary changes or other payroll administration processes.
AHC first suspected something was wrong with its accounts when in June of this year, a check it has issued for a consulting engagements was returned for insufficient funds. The court documents state that on June 22, 2018, the President of AHC met with representatives of AHC’s bank to review the bank statements for the account. The suit document reads, “The President of the AHC and the bank’s branch manager compared several months of bank statements and determined the bank statements in the AHC’s files did not match the statements maintained by the bank. Among other things, the statements in the AHC’s files had been altered to remove and/or conceal numerous electronic transfers and payments made to loans and credit card s in Defendant Ashley Furst’s name. These alterations caused the statements in the AHC’s files to grossly overstate the actual available balance of funds in the account.”
At this time, AHC has asked the court to place liens on Furst’s money and personal property that was acquired through funds allegedly stolen from AHC. In addition to requesting that the funds be returned to AHC, they have asked for a jury trial and have sued for compensatory damages, triple damages, attorney fees and associated court costs.
To read the full case court document, click here: AHC-Lawsuit_Redacted