A Houma man accused of stealing more than $100,000 from a St. Charles Parish-based nonprofit organization pleaded no contest to the charge of theft of items valued over $25,000 and will have to pay $70,000 restitution.
Ronald Zeringue, 48, of 200 Glynn Ave., received a deferred prison sentence of five years and five years active probation as a result of the plea. He can avoid serving the prison sentence if he fulfills the terms of his probation.
Zeringue was arrested initially after an investigation revealed that, while serving as treasurer of the Contractor Safety Alliance (CSA), he had several unexplained expenditures for the group dating back to 2012, according to the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office.
CSA is a nonprofit organization based at Dow Chemical in Hahnville and associated with several Dow contractors. The group was formed with the purpose of promoting safety at the Dow Chemical site and members of the organization pay an annual fee. The organization also donates funds to charities. Each member donates an annual fee of $10, while Dow matches the amount.
Newly elected CSA board members obtained banking records that, over several years, showed irregular purchases and the frequent use of a debit card for what appeared to be personal spending. As treasurer, Zeringue was responsible for making payments, commonly using bank checks that would require two board members’ signatures. He obtained the debit card for the bank account during his time as treasurer, a position he served in since 2008.
According to court records, it was found that more than $10,000 was drawn from the account through the debit card in 2017. There was more than $24,000 found in unauthorized purchases in 2015 and more than $16,000 in 2016. When banking records were investigated further back, the unauthorized withdrawals totaled more than $27,000 in 2012, $23,000 in 2013, and nearly $28,000 in 2014. The total unauthorized charges to the account was found to be nearly $130,000 from January of 2012 through September of 2017.
Two board members told police they were initially unaware of the card and that they believed a check with signatures from two board members was the only way to draw from the account. Zeringue was the only non-newly elected board member at the time the suspected theft was reported to the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office.
Court records state Zeringue told detectives a past CSA president had approved the card, but that he could not recall who, and that it was needed at the time because a vendor would not take a check from him when he attempted to purchase gift cards, which were to be given to CSA members as promotional items. He also reportedly said he alone made all purchases that the card was used for.
St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office spokesman Capl. James Grimaldi said Zeringue was unable to provide documentation or provide explanations for the purchases and was placed under arrest.