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Published: Wednesday, 3/24/2004

Jensen surrenders ACES leadership as fraud claims rock advocacy group

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU

COLUMBUS - Geraldine Jensen, the head of a national child support organization that was founded in Toledo, is stepping down amid fraud allegations against her and theft charges against a former top assistant. Ms. Jensen, who founded the Association for Children for Enforcement of Support in 1984, has turned over the director's reins to Debbie Kline of Cleveland.

Ms. Jensen, who founded the Association for Children for Enforcement of Support in 1984, has turned over the director's reins to Debbie Kline of Cleveland. ACES's home office quietly moved from Toledo to Fredericksburg, Va., last year.

Ms. Jensen, 51, does not plan to seek re-election as chairman of the board during the trustees' annual meeting in July, but she will run for a seat on the board. The transition occurs as ACES struggles financially and deals with the prosecution of one of its own for alleged theft of more than $80,000 from the organization.

Patricia Lisa Redieck, 36, of 1752 Brame St., Toledo, former ACES administrative assistant, faces trial Aug. 5 on 11 counts of forgery and credit-card fraud for allegedly faking the signature of Ms. Jensen on checks between Jan. 8, 2002, and May 23, 2003.

"They are all felonies of the fifth degree with a maximum of one year on each of those charges," said John Weglian, chief of the special units division in the Lucas County prosecutor's office.

Rebecca K. Ligibel, Ms. Redieck's attorney, did not return a call for comment.

"When we closed the office on June 1 and the mail was no longer going to Toledo but to Virginia, we discovered [Ms. Redieck] had stolen quite a bit of money," said Ms. Jensen. "We think the amount is around $83,000."

Meanwhile, a former ACES employee, Carrie Davis of Cincinnati, recently filed a complaint with the Ohio attorney general's office alleging fraud.

"Geri Jensen, as CEO, has been misrepresenting the number of members and chapters across the country in

order to attract members, donors, and grantors," Ms. Davis charged.

Ms. Jensen said accusations that she is padding the numbers have been made before.

"Most of our opposition has leveled that at us at one time or another," she said. "We talk about having 50,000 members. We actually have more."

The organization counts as members anyone who has applied, regardless of whether they currently pay or have ever paid dues.

"We've been suffering the last two years from the recession pretty dramatically, like most nonprofits," Ms. Jensen said. "We have had layoffs and we closed some offices: Chicago in 2000, California this year. We still have the Fredericksburg (Va.) and Maryland offices at the moment."

Ms. Jensen said she may start dividing her time between Florida and her home in Ann Arbor.

"I believe in ACES," she said. "I've donated $65,000 to ACES, plus most of my salary in past years. I've put in my energy and my money, and I'm going to continue to do both."

The story of Ms. Jensen and the founding of ACES was the subject of an ABC-TV movie, Abandoned and Deceived, in 1995.

The organization more recently garnered headlines for revealing that Ohio improperly withheld past-due child-support payments from former welfare families.

The state ultimately repaid $15 million plus interest to 66,000 families for cases dating to 1997.

Blade Staff Writer Mark Reiter contributed to this story.

Contact Jim Provance at:

jprovance@theblade.com

or 614-221-0496.



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