Ralph Clark, the center's former director of facilities, struck a plea agreement with federal prosecutors and acknowledged that he had stolen the funds from the Midtown arts center between 2005 and 2012.
"The Woodruff Arts Center is an important part of the fabric of our community," U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said in a statement. "This defendant embezzled over $1 million from funds intended for the benefit of our citizens."
Clark was first hired in 2004 by the organization as a mechanic, but rose through the ranks and quickly assumed more responsibilities. In 2006, he became the Woodruff Center's director of facilities, which allowed him to sign off on vendor contracts worth as much as $50,000.
Over the course of seven years, Clark submitted around $779,000 in invoices to Lowe's Services, an apartment cleaning business that his wife owned. The fraudulent company billed for services that either were never provided to the arts organization or that he performed as an employee for the non-profit organizaton..
In addition, Clark informed legitimate vendors that they would have to raise their invoiced costs by 30 percent to continue doing business with the Woodruff Arts Center. As the arts organization paid those companies, he would keep the inflated 30 percent for himself.
"Mr. Clark chose to violate his position of trust at the Woodruff Arts Center," Mark F. Giuliano, a Federal Bureau of Investigations special agent, said in a statement. "In addition, he violated federal law by attempting to profit through arrangements with various contracted vendors. The FBI will continue to provide assistance and investigative resources in such matters that negatively impact our non-profit, cultural institutions such as the Woodruff Arts Center."
According to the Associated Press, Woodruff Arts Center first began an internal audit after a supervisor raised questions while reviewing some of Clark's invoices. He later admitted to wrongdoing when confronted with evidence from the investigation, which looked at more than $1,000 invoices as well as numerous interviews with vendors and other employees.
Clark faces a maximum sentence of 10 years, but will likely serve between 41 and 51 months. He could also be required to pay upwards of a $250,000 fine.
"We are pleased that this process has been resolved and are grateful for the work of the U.S. Attorney's office and law enforcement authorities who have brought it to closure," Woodruff Arts Center CEO Virginia Hepner said in a statement.
Last November, Woodruff Arts Center Board Chair Larry Gellerstedt III announced that an unnamed former employee embezzled $1.48 million over five years. An FBI spokesman, however, could only comment on the $1.1 million embezzled by Ralph Clark and not the estimated $380,000 difference from the arts center's initial announcement.
Clark's sentencing is scheduled for August 7 at 2:30 p.m.
This story has been altered to include additional information.
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