APNewsBreak: Hospitality worker admits to charges
COLUMBIA Ė A former employee of the South Carolina Hospitality Association has admitted she embezzled nearly $500,000 from the group whose director killed himself earlier this year, according to federal court documents.
Under a plea agreement with prosecutors, Rachel Duncan plans to plead guilty next week to federal charges of wire fraud and tax evasion. She faces up to 23 years in prison and $350,000 in fines when she is sentenced.
According to prosecutors, the associationís former accounting director took more than $480,000 from the group from 2006 until February of this year, using much of the money for online gambling.
Federal officials had confirmed they were probing the group that serves as a lobbying group for South Carolinaís multi-billion dollar tourism industry.
Tom Sponseller, the Hospitality Associationís executive director, killed himself in February after two decades at the helm of the group he founded. Police say Sponseller left a suicide note in which he detailed his despair over Duncanís apparent misdeeds, saying he was despondent they happened on his watch and that Duncan was like a daughter to him.
A three-year audit found about $480,000 missing from the groupís coffers, but nothing to link Sponseller directly to the loss.
Duncanís attorney did not immediately return a message Thursday from The Associated Press.
It took police 10 days to find Sponsellerís body in the parking garage of the building where he worked. Two high-ranking Columbia police officials left the department in the investigationís aftermath.
Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP