As Stacey Denaux shuffled through the rows of a downtown Charleston federal courtroom Tuesday looking for a seat, she immediately stopped and looked up as Carol Libby, her former co-worker walked into the room.
It was the first time Denaux, the executive director of Crisis Ministries, had seen the homeless shelter's former chief financial officer since the organization had fired Libby last June.
Libby, 56, of Mount Pleasant, who had worked at the downtown shelter managing its money for 10 years, was arrested after being caught stealing some of the nonprofit's funds, according to prosecutors.
Denaux was joined by several other employees and board members Tuesday afternoon to watch Libby plead guilty to a charge in connection to the embezzlement of about $440,000 from the charity over a seven-year period.
"It was important for us to be here," Denaux said following the hearing. "There are thousands of victims for this crime and it's our job to represent them."
Libby pleaded guilty to an information charge of wire fraud. An information in federal court is similar to an indictment, in that it lays out the facts and elements of the criminal offense. It is generally used in cases where a defendant waives indictment by a grand jury and agrees to plead to the charges against him or her.
The remaining four counts against her will be dismissed, according to the plea agreement. All of Libby's crimes, however, will be taken into consideration by the judge for her sentencing, which will be scheduled at a later date.
She faces a possible maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine.
As part of the plea agreement, Libby will have to pay restitution, which will be determined by the judge.
Denaux and other employees of Crisis Ministries said they also plan to attend the sentencing hearing.
"When the time is appropriate, we will ask the judge to impose the harshest punishment," Denaux said.
Libby was accused of stealing $440,000 from the shelter between 2006 and 2013, according to court records.
The former CFO fraudulently generated more than 400 unauthorized business checks from Crisis Ministries over a period of seven years. Libby made the checks payable to actual vendors, according to prosecutors.
She is accused of endorsing those checks by forging the names of the vendors and writing her own bank account numbers on the backs of the checks, court records said.
Libby then deposited those checks into several of her personal accounts, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Rhett DeHart, who is prosecuting the case.
She was caught when a bank fraud department notified Crisis Ministries, DeHart told the judge.
During the hearing Libby acknowledged the crimes against her.
"I don't dispute any of it," she told the judge.
Libby also had been charged in state court with breach of trust. Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said the charge will be dismissed.
Libby told the judge she's currently working at a Liberty Tax in the area. She said she was managing tax preparers during tax season and is now working on special projects with the franchise's owner.
Libby said she is not handling accounts and her boss is aware of the crimes she committed. She'll remain free while she awaits her sentencing.
Reach Natalie Caula Hauff at 937-5594 or Twitter.com/ncaula.