Woodruff Employee Admits Embezzling

A former employee of Woodruff Arts Center in Atlanta pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $1.1 million from the organization.

The arts center includes the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, 14th Street Playhouse and Alliance Theatre.

Ralph Clark entered a plea in federal court, and prosecutors are recommending a sentence of 41 to 51 months in prison. U.S. District Court Judge Julie Carnes told Clark he would likely be ordered to pay restitution; sentencing is set for Aug. 7.

“The Woodruff Arts Center is an important part of the fabric of our community,” U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said. “This defendant embezzled over $1 million from funds intended for the benefit of our citizens.”

Clark worked at the center as an HVAC mechanic from 2004 until he was fired in October, prosecutors said. He was promoted to director of facilities in the last two years of his employment, and his duties included maintaining the center’s infrastructure.

He was authorized to approve vendor contracts up to $50,000.

He used his wife’s apartment cleaning business to bill the center for services that were either not provided or that he performed himself, prosecutors said. He also hired a maintenance company and said that if the company wanted future work at the arts center, it would have to submit inflated invoices and give him kickbacks of 30 percent.