Restitution, donations bolster pack

Wendy Thornbury has paid back the money she was accused of stealing from her son's Cub Scout pack.

SUMMERVILLE — When a trusted leader siphoned more than $13,000 from a popcorn fundraiser, it looked like Cub Scouts Pack 759 would be left broke and unable to attend camp this summer.

This disenchanting episode, however, turned into an unexpected windfall for the Scouts and a heartening lesson in a community's generosity.

Former bank manager Wendy Thornbury has paid back the money she was accused of embezzling from her son's Cub Scout pack, and the case against her will be dismissed if she successfully completes a pretrial intervention program, authorities said.

Meanwhile, donations from her old bank and the community ensure the Scouts not only will go to camp but also will have several thousand dollars extra to spend on other things, scouting officials said.

"The generosity of the community has been wonderful," said Bill Everett, the pack's cubmaster.

Thornbury, 38, was charged in March with breach of trust for reportedly draining some $14,000 from the pack's account at Carolina First Bank, where she served as branch manager. Her position as treasurer of Pack 759 gave her access to the money, which the Scouts raised through popcorn sales to pay for summer camp, an equipment trailer, awards ceremonies and other activities.

One pack official told investigators she suspected Thornbury spent the money on beauty pageant fees for her daughter and trips to Florida so the girl could try out for Walt Disney kids' programs, a police report stated.

Everett said a closer examination of the account put the actual loss at $13,481.

A relative apparently provided Thornbury with money and she was able to make full restitution last month, scouting officials said.

Rad Deaton, Thornbury's lawyer, confirmed the money was repaid and that she had entered a pre- trial program that will result in the charges being dismissed if completed successfully.

"I'm happy to see them get their money back, and happy to see her get the chance for a clean slate," Deaton said.

Participants in pretrial intervention generally are required to make restitution, get counseling, perform community service or complete other steps. At the conclusion, they also can ask the court to expunge the charges from their criminal records.

First Circuit Deputy Solicitor Blair Jennings said he could neither confirm nor deny Thornbury's participation in pretrial intervention or the possible outcome.

Thornbury's phone number in Summerville has been disconnected, and she could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Everett said Thornbury and her family have apparently moved out of town.

Scouting officials said they were satisfied with the outcome. "I think jail time was certainly not going to do her any good, and we may not have gotten our money back then," said Charles Smith, charter representative for the pack.

After the theft was discovered, Carolina First Bank sent the pack $3,200 to cover the cost of sending its 50 boys to camp, said Legare Clement of the Coastal Carolina Council of Boy Scouts of America.

The pack received another $4,000 in donations from other scouting groups and the community, Everett said.

Unless someone requests their donation be returned, Pack 759 intends to use the extra money for other needs, such as a trailer and additional equipment for its camping activities, pack officials said. "We'll be able to afford that now, where before we had not been able to," Everett said.

Dixon Woodward, south coast market president for Carolina First, said the pack is welcome to keep the bank's donation. "We intended to support the Scouts going forward, and we remain firm in that commitment," he said.

Pack officials said they have made changes to prevent a future theft, such as sharing financial statements at meetings and requiring two signatures on all checks. Despite the hassles and uncertainty the episode created, pack officials said they bear no animosity toward Thornbury. Leaders also told Scouts they should harbor no ill will toward her or her family.

"The big thing we pointed out is that if they come across Wendy's son and daughter, who were their friends, to make sure they behave like Scouts and be courteous, friendly, kind and cheerful," Everett said.