Prosecutors drop embezzlement charge against former Charleston Animal Society president

Prosecutors have dismissed an embezzlement charge against former Charleston Animal Society President Charles Karesh. Buy this photo

Prosecutors have dismissed an embezzlement charge against former Charleston Animal Society President Charles Karesh in connection with about $71,000 that went missing from the organization.

Court records show the 9th Circuit Solicitor’s Office dropped the charge Oct. 22 without seeking an indictment.

Assistant Solicitor Marian Askins said state statutes prevent prosecutors from discussing the disposition.

Karesh’s attorney, Frank McCann, had this to say: “The charge was dismissed because no crime was committed.”

Karesh, a member of Charleston’s Planning Commission, didn’t attend meetings while the charge was pending but returned to the panel Wednesday night, offering greetings to other members and staff. McCann serves as chairman of the commission.

Karesh, 57, of Windermere Boulevard, resigned from his position with the animal society in December 2011 after being questioned about $69,000 that was reported missing. Board members later said the money was returned, and no charges were brought at the time.

A State Law Enforcement Division investigation, however, resulted in charges filed in February accusing Karesh of siphoning money from the organization from September 2007 until September 2011 while serving as its acting executive director and president, according to an arrest affidavit.

Karesh was accused of writing numerous personal business checks made out to the shelter that he cashed to get money, the affidavit stated. The bank later sent those checks back to the animal society for having insufficient funds, resulting in additional banking fees, the affidavit said. An internal audit later put the amount of missing money at $71,388, SLED said.

The animal society had no comment on the case Thursday. But its attorney notified SLED last year that full restitution had been made, and that the organization didn’t want to pursue criminal charges against Karesh.

The animal society made changes after Karesh left the organization. Among other things, it established separate finance and audit committees, and hired new chief financial and executive officers with nonprofit management experience.

In past interviews, animal society board members described Karesh as a dedicated volunteer who spent time on his philanthropic work at the expense of his downtown Charleston insurance business.

Court records also indicate that a separate municipal charge of malicious injury to property against Karesh also was dismissed. That charge stemmed from allegations that Karesh spit soup on a former society board member’s car.



Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556 or Twitter.com/glennsmith5.

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