February 20, 2002 11:00 pm

By T.L. Petersen

Observer Staff Writer

An effort to teach children about working toward a goal and experiencing the results may result in saddened hearts and a harsh legal lesson, pending a criminal investigation.

Union County sheriff deputies and the Union County District Attorneys Office are looking into a case possibly involving embezzlement and forgery of thousands of dollars from the accounts of the Elgin-Imbler Philadelphia Trip.

The Philadelphia group works with eighth-graders in Elgin and Imbler to raise money for an early April trip to Philadelphia and national landmarks on the East Coast.

The amount of money missing from the accounts has not been identified, Sheriff Steve Oliver said. Im not sure anyone knows.

Both Cove-Union and La Grande have similar Philly trip groups, but they are not tied financially to the Elgin-Imbler group.

Oliver said deputies began looking into the matter last week after two people came to law enforcement with concerns about the groups financial operations.

The district attorneys office became involved and on Feb. 14 a search warrant was served to collect possible evidence.

The information collected by deputies, Oliver said, has been turned over to the prosecutors office.

District Attorney Russ West said after the investigation is completed his office will decide whether to order an arrest and press charges.