Kiawah Island chambers

Town of Kiawah Island. Provided

A federal grand jury has indicted two former Kiawah Island officials suspected of defrauding the town out of about $200,000 between 2011 and 2015.

According to the court documents filed on Tuesday, Tumiko Rucker, former town administrator, and Harrison Kenneth Gunnells, former town treasurer, each face one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

"Rucker and Gunnells were longtime employees and were given significant autonomy from the mayor and town council," according to the indictment. "It was part of the scheme to defraud the town of Kiawah that Rucker and Gunnells paid themselves excess salary."

The former officials received at least 16 additional monthly paychecks, according to the indictment. The payments weren't authorized by officials and neither the mayor nor Town Council were aware of the situation as it unfolded.

In addition to the extra paychecks, both Rucker and Gunnells gave themselves advances on their salaries, the indictment said.

"These payroll advances occurred frequently throughout the conspiracy, and as a practical matter, (they) constituted interest-free loans from the town," the indictment said.

The two also used credit cards issued by the town for personal use, such as doctor visits, airline tickets, car repairs and lunches, the indictment said.

Tim Kulp, Gunnells' attorney, said he received electronic notice of the court filing but had not yet reviewed the indictment Tuesday night. 

"We look forward to continuing along with the case to its conclusion," Kulp said. "Mr. Gunnells is a very nice man. He looks forward to presenting his position about this in court." 

In an emailed statement, Rucker's attorney, Lauren Williams, said her client has lived "under a cloud of suspicion."

"She very much looks forward to defending herself and finally resolving this matter," Williams' statement read.

Rucker currently serves as CEO for Sea Island Comprehensive Health Care Corp., a Johns Island-based nonprofit that provides health services to the primarily rural, minority residents of the Sea Islands in the Charleston area. 

Kiawah Island Mayor Craig Weaver could not immediately be reached for comment. Former Mayor Charles Lipuma declined to comment. 

Both Gunnells and Rucker resigned within weeks of each other in May 2015. At first, the reason behind their resignations did not attract much public scrutiny. 

Rucker announced on May 7 of that year that she would be resigning effective June 30 to possibly pursue political office and that she "just wanted a new challenge," according to a statement made at the time. 

Gunnells resigned May 21 over a then-undisclosed "disagreement" with Lipuma.

Just days later, on May 26, town officials announced that they were looking into improper financial transactions by one or more employees. No employees, including Gunnells and Rucker, were named in that announcement. 

On June 5, officials announced they were suspending Rucker without pay pending the results of a forensic audit. Her suspension came after she announced the resignation.  

The town contracted with an auditing firm to look into the transactions. Officials were tight-lipped about the progress of the investigation until July 17 of that year, when then-Mayor Lipuma read a statement to Town Council announcing the results of the forensic audit that found Gunnells and Rucker allegedly gave themselves the unauthorized payments and took steps to cover their tracks.

Up until Tuesday's indictment, neither former official had been formally charged with a crime.

Reach Gregory Yee at 843-937-5908. Follow him on Twitter @GregoryYYee.

Gregory Yee covers breaking news and public safety. He's a native Angeleno and previously covered crime and courts for the Press-Telegram in Long Beach, CA. He studied journalism and Spanish literature at the University of California, Irvine.