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The Eastern Niagara United Way has fired one of its employees after discovering one of its credit cards had been used to make more than $7,000 in unauthorized purchases over the past year.

Niagara County Sheriff Thomas A. Beilein said the individual is under investigation by sheriff's Investigator Edward Guard and by Alan Brooks, an investigator with the district attorney's office.

"No arrest has been made," Beilein said, adding he is not sure when the investigation, which began Wednesday, will be concluded.

Hank Nevins, United Way vice president for marketing, said the alleged misuse of the agency credit card involved about $7,000 in unauthorized purchases and about $900 in fees and other costs -- all of which are still outstanding.

The illegal use of the credit card was discovered after a United Way fiscal official happened to answer a call from the credit card company concerning the account, Nevins said. The suspect had been intercepting related telephone calls and mail prior to that, he said.

The situation prompted the agency's board of directors, which includes Beilein and District Attorney Matthew J. Murphy III, to dismiss the employee and report the matter to the authorities, Nevins said.

"The board recognizes its community responsibility. We came forward to the press because it's a matter of public trust" to properly handle the money contributed by the community to support United Way-backed programs, Nevins said.

He said the board has set up a special committee to review the agency's polices and procedures to enhance internal controls on its operations.

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