The Ballet School Was Missing $1.5M. The Story Gets Stranger

A convicted embezzler is again at the center of a financial mess
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 17, 2020 1:15 PM CDT
The Ballet School Was Missing $1.5M. The Story Gets Stranger
A stock photo of a hopefully financially sound ballet school.   (Getty Images)

They gave her a second chance. Bad idea, perhaps. The New York Times reports on the financial mess the elite Kirov Academy of Ballet in Washington, DC, finds itself in: As the paper puts it, the school is "recovering from one of the bigger embezzlement scandals in the history of ballet," and it allegedly got there by hiring Sophia Kim as comptroller. She had experience with the school, having been its treasurer about 20 years prior. But in period between then and her mid-2017 rehiring, she had done time for embezzling $800,000 from a nonprofit tied to Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church. The school was also affiliated with the church during Kim's first go-round; today it's not, though one of Moon's daughters remains board president. In November Kim was arrested for allegedly misappropriating $1,501,283.13 from the academy. She has not yet entered a plea.

An FBI affidavit claims Kim cashed checks written to herself and used the debit card she was given to make 120 cash withdrawals over 9 months in 2018. NBC Washington cites court filings that say no one else at the school had use of the debit card. Some of the money allegedly went to pay off gambling debts at the MGM Grand Casino in Maryland. But the Times describes a situation that's not so straightforward: It recounts how Moon's love of ballet was sparked—in part by the dancer who agreed to marry the "spirit" of Moon's 17-year-old son after he died in a car accident, all so the teen could gain access to heaven, per church teaching—and shares the church's belief that Kim was actually looking out for the church when all that money vanished the first time. Her lawyers argued she was gambling and day trading as a way to try to generate extra revenue for the non-profit. (Read the full story here.)

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