BEAUFORT, N.C. (WNCT) — A former director of the Carteret County Humane Society and Animal Shelter will serve five to seven years in prison as part of a plea agreement entered in Carteret County Superior Court last week.
Candace Christopherson was director of the animal shelter from September 2005 to September 2016, and she was in charge of fiscal and financial operations.
A North Carolina Auditor Report in March alleged she used the shelter’s credit cards to spend more than $67,000 on questionable purchases, including online dating, rent and child care.
Christopherson also excluded more than $44,000 in cash receipts from bank deposits, according to the report.
Following notification from state officials, the Carteret County Sheriff’s Office conducted a criminal investigation, which lead to an indictment. Christopherson turned herself in on June 9.
In addition to prison time, Christopherson must pay back $111,849.98 in restitution.
Some of the questionable purchases included more than $15,000 worth of convenience store purchases on gas, cigarettes and alcohol.
There were also purchases at Walmart and restaurants, as well as uses of the cars for online dating, Netflix, Redbox, Xbox Live and even a WWE pay-per-view event, according to the report.
The report, which stemmed from a complaint through the Office of the State Auditor’s hotline, says Christopherson spent the $67,000 on 2,243 credit purchases between January 2014 and July 2016.
Christopherson was the only employee authorized to use the shelter’s credit cards, and the report said she was unable to produce receipts or other documentation to support a business purpose for these purchases.
Between January 2015 and September 2016, the report also says the shelter received $44,364 in cash that was not included in its bank deposits. According to the Shelter’s PetPoint data management system, cash receipts for this period totaled $56,382, but an analysis of the shelter’s deposit slips and bank statement indicated that only $12,018 was deposited in the bank.
Christopherson could not explain the missing cash, according to the report.
The report also said the failure of the director to deposit cash to the shelter resulted in less funds available for the animals there.
“Ms. Christopherson has received a substantial active prison sentence as a result of her theft of funds from the Animal Shelter,” said District Attorney Scott Thomas in a statement. “My office worked closely with Sheriff Buck’s office and the State Auditor’s office on this investigation and prosecution. It is unfortunate that these monies designated for the benefit of the Shelter were diverted for personal use. We take the theft of public funds and donations seriously and that is why we sought an active prison sentence based upon the investigative findings.”
9OYS has reached out to Christopherson online and at her home, but she has not responded.
The Carteret County Sheriff’s Office confirmed they are conducting a criminal investigation into the allegations and will consult the District Attorney’s Office when the investigation is complete to determine what, if any, criminal charges will be filed.