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Tiffany Knupp charged with misuse of son’s foundation funds, attorney denies claims

Tiffany Knupp, mother of 14-year-old Gavin Knupp, has been charged with embezzlement, theft and theft scheme for allegedly misappropriating funds from a foundation she presided over that was created after her son’s death.

Gavin memorial-file

A memorial dedicated to 14-year-old Gavin Knupp is pictured on Grays Corner Road where he was hit and killed in 2022.
File photo

Bethany Hooper, Associate Editor

Tiffany Knupp, president of the Gavin Knupp Foundation, has been charged with embezzlement, theft and theft scheme for allegedly misappropriating funds.

On June 26, nine charges – including felonies of embezzlement, theft $1,500 to under $25,000, and theft scheme $1,500 to under $25,000 – were filed against Knupp, whose son, Gavin Knupp, 14, was killed in a hit-and-run incident in July of 2022. Charging documents filed last month allege Knupp had embezzled $12,625 in her position as president of the Gavin Knupp Foundation.

“Tiffany Knupp was entrusted with overseeing the Gavin Knupp Foundation,” the charging documents read, “but it is clear she betrayed that trust.”

Last December, during a divorce proceeding in Wicomico County Circuit Court, it was revealed that Knupp had used the foundation’s funds to pay her personal attorney, according to charging documents. An investigation into the foundation’s bank account showed two payments – one for $2,500 and another for $4,000 – were made to her attorney’s law firm.

“Tiffany declared under oath on 12/14/23 that she had obtained The Foundation’s authorization to compensate her personal lawyer for representing her in the contempt case …,” the charging documents state. “I conducted interviews with current and former members of the Foundation board which revealed that none of the board members had authorized any payment to [attorney’s name redacted] for her representation of Tiffany.”

The investigation also revealed other questionable payments. Last November, a local pool bar raised $3,200 to support a local family who had lost their son. As a representative of the Gavin Knupp Foundation, Knupp pledged to match the funds raised, resulting in a total of $6,400, according to charging documents. One month after the fundraiser, however, a cashier’s check for $4,200 was made to the family.

“During our interview, Tiffany stated that she had deposited the money into the Foundation’s bank account and contributed an equal amount to the [name redacted] family, deducting her expenses, for a total sum of $4,200,” the charging documents read. “There is no evidence indicating that Tiffany made any cash deposits into the Foundation’s bank account. Moreover, from May 19, 2023 to January 9, 2024, there were absolutely no cash deposits recorded in the Foundation’s bank account.”

A look into Knupp’s personal bank account also revealed deposits that should have been made into the foundation’s bank account, according to the charging documents. In January of 2023, a $1,925 check from a shirt company – which arranged the sale of merchandise for the Gavin Knupp Foundation – was deposited into Knupp’s personal account. The money was the foundation’s portion of proceeds from the shirt sales, according to the charging documents.

“During multiple fundraising occasions, cash was utilized for the sale of merchandise, posting a significant challenge in terms of tracking,” the charging documents add.

The statement of charges concludes that Knupp had mishandled money, misrepresented the foundation board and misused community-raised funds for personal use. Knupp faces five felony charges, including four charges of theft $1,500 to under $25,000 and one charge of theft scheme $1,500 to under $25,000, and four misdemeanor charges, including three charges of embezzlement and one charge of theft $100 to under $1,500.

“Between January 1, 2023, and December 29, 2023, Tiffany embezzled a total of $12,625 by exploiting her position as the president of the Gavin Knupp Foundation,” the charging documents read.

Shortly after Gavin Knupp’s passing in July 2022, a GoFundMe page was created to help the Knupp family move forward. Thanks to 687 donations, the page raised $52,175 for the family. In a press conference Wednesday, Knupp’s attorney, Thomas Maronick, said his client will be entering a not guilty plea

“These charges are completely bogus based on distortions of the truth or blatant inaccuracies, and we will fight these charges to their core,” he said. “She is completely innocent of all charges, and we await our day in court, where we will be able to face these allegations head on and show the truth. Tiffany is a person who has stood up in her life for others. She has faced overwhelming pain and then more than a year of media attention following her son’s death while she’s worked to be the best mother she can be, a strong advocate for the community, a business owner and a friend to many. Under Tiffany’s leadership, the foundation has donated thousands of dollars to families in need and continues to support local families of those who have lost children.”

Maronick continued, “She has had to deal with a documented continual harassment from her ex which has taken place over years and has led to the granting of multiple protective orders against him. We believe these present allegations have a connection to that strained relationship. We look very much forward to our day in court and what we will believe will be the clearing of Ms. Knupp’s good name.”

State’s Attorney Kris Heiser, who is prosecuting Berlin resident Tyler Mailloux in connection with the Gavin Knupp hit-and-run case, made clear on Wednesday that neither she nor her office will be involved in the embezzlement case.

“The Office of the State’s Attorney for Worcester County has not and will not have any involvement in the investigation, charging or prosecution of Tiffany Knupp,” Heiser said. “The investigation was handled by the Maryland State Police in consultation with the Office of the State’s Attorney for Somerset County.  Once notified that charges had been filed, this Office immediately petitioned the District Court to appoint the State’s Attorney for Somerset County as special prosecutor for this case. Any further inquiries regarding this matter should be directed to the Office of the State’s Attorney for Somerset County.”

This story appears in the July 4, 2024, print edition of then Bayside Gazette.