$150,000 is missing Tiburon police investigate ex-Kol Shofar employee

Police are investigating the former director of finance of Congregation Kol Shofar for allegedly misappropriating more than $150,000 over several years.

Detective Cindy Baxman of the Tiburon Police Department confirmed to j. that she is probing accusations of “unauthorized financial activity” by Larry Mintzer, Kol Shofar’s ex-controller.

In an Aug. 11 letter sent to Kol Shofar’s roughly 600 member families, and subsequently obtained by j., congregation officials accuse Mintzer of orchestrating a “carefully concealed scheme” in which he “misused Kol Shofar’s credit cards and [took] unauthorized employee benefits.”

Citing the ongoing investigation and possible pending legal action, neither Diane Zack, the congregation’s current president, nor Mark Levy, its executive director, would go into further details on the allegations.

Mintzer could not be reached for comment.

Charles Wisch, Kol Shofar’s attorney and a past congregational president, was out of town traveling and could not be reached by press time either. An assistant in his office said he became involved in the matter in early June.

Zack said Mintzer had held his position for around five years prior to departing in May. Neither Zack nor Levy would disclose why Mintzer left his position, though Kol Shofar’s letter to its congregants notes that the alleged financial irregularities were only discovered after Mintzer’s departure.

Zack said the revelations of Mintzer’s alleged misdeeds came as a complete shock to the congregation.

“If we had expected wrongdoing, we’d have investigated a long time ago. We had no suspicion before his employment ended,” she said.

“You can imagine this is a really terrible situation for the synagogue and we feel outraged this happened, but we understand we’re not immune to this kind of conduct, which has affected so many institutions today.”

The congregation made its initial police report on Friday, Aug. 5. Baxman, the department’s sole investigator, has been out of the office for much of the time since then, and her investigation is still in its infancy.

Following Mintzer’s departure, the congregation announced it has formed a task force to tighten its internal financial systems, outsourced its financial reporting requirements to a professional accounting/bookkeeping firm and reviewed the impact on the synagogue’s current operating budget.

Kol Shofar claims the “impact will be significantly less than the overall total, since most losses were absorbed in prior fiscal years.”

Still, talk of the shocking allegations is now rippling through the synagogue’s halls, noted Zack.

“Well, people are sad… And concerned. And concerned that justice be pursued.”

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi is the managing editor at Mission Local. He is a former editor-at-large at San Francisco magazine, former columnist at SF Weekly and a former J. staff writer.