Patty Simmons Pace

Patty Simmons Pace. Cannon Detention Center/Provided

A former Charleston County Emergency Management Department worker was arrested Friday on a charge that she racked up nearly $25,000 in personal charges on a government credit card.

Senior emergency management specialist Patty Pace, 51, told investigators she had mistakenly used the card. She said she made that mistake at least 18 times between July and September, charging up to $4,700 and not telling her supervisors.

An investigation revealed a broader problem: $24,700 in unexplained charges dating back to October 2013, arrest affidavits alleged.

Pace, a resident of Cypress Campground Road in Ridgeville, faces a charge of embezzling public funds totaling less than $25,000. She turned herself in to sheriff's deputies and was booked at the Charleston County jail, where her bail was set at $15,000.

A county employee for 12 years, Pace resigned Oct. 4 during the investigation by the Charleston County Sheriff's Office, the county said. She had been on administrative leave since authorities learned of the accusation Sept. 22.

A department official alerted the authorities that day amid an internal audit of bank records.

Pace answered a deputy's questions but insisted that she had accidentally used the card for personal purchases because it looked like her own bank card, an incident report stated.

While she pointed out 18 charges over recent months, Pace said there could be more, the report added. In one case, Pace said she bought $116 worth of boxes and office supplies at a Marshalls department store.

She didn't inform her boss, she told the deputy, because she was waiting to get bank statements. Pace offered to pay back the money.

After her resignation, the audit found further discrepancies over a nearly four-year span. There were no receipts to back up the purchases, the affidavits said, and her manager's signature had been forged on expense paperwork.

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Andrew Knapp is editor of the quick response team, which covers crime, courts and breaking news. He previously worked as a reporter and copy editor at Florida Today, Newsday and Bangor (Maine) Daily News. He enjoys golf, weather and fatherhood.