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The Richard Dawkins Foundation has accused its former website creator and administrator of embezzling $US375,000 from the organization over the last 3 years:

Josh Timonen was one of a small coterie of young protégés around Richard Dawkins, sharing his boss’s zealous atheism. But now he and the evolutionary theorist have fallen out spectacularly. Professor Dawkins’s charity has accused Mr Timonen of embezzling hundreds of thousands of pounds.

The two atheists had become close in recent years, with Dawkins, the best-selling author and Emeritus Professor of Biology at Oxford University, even dedicating his latest book, The Greatest Show on Earth, to him. But Mr Timonen and the Dawkins foundation are now preparing for a legal wrangle.

The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, has filed four lawsuits in a Californian court alleging that Mr Timonen, who ran its online operation in America, stole $375,000 (£239,000) over three years. It is claiming $950,000 in damages, while Mr Dawkins is suing him for $14,000 owed to him personally. Mr Timonen strongly denies the allegations.

In the 18-page complaint filed in a Los Angeles court, the foundation claims that Mr Timonen said the website he was running was just “squeaking by,” making only $30,000 in three years, when in fact it was grossing 10 times that sum. The charity alleges that Mr Timonen pocketed 92 per cent of the money generated by the store, with his girlfriend spending $100,000 of the charity’s money on upgrading her home before putting it on the market.

For those interested in learning more, the full complaint is available as a PDF. Timonen – who had been involved in an earlier controversy about the closing of the RDF forums – responded by calling the lawsuit “the ultimate betrayal“. Between the angst directed at him over the forum shutdown, and now these accusations that he stole their donated money, Timonen doesn’t have a whole lot of friends in the atheist community at the moment.

Ah well, what’s a religious group without the occasional scandal over donated money…