BELLE CHASE, LA (FOX44) — The shelter director of a non-profit animal rescue organization was arrested after she confessed to stealing money issued to PAWS in the form of in fees and donations. She said she used the cash to support her drug addiction.
“It is very disappointing to learn that someone, who PAWS and the community entrusted to help protect sheltered animals, took advantage of a situation just to support a drug addiction,” Sheriff Lonnie J. Greco, Sr., Plaquemines Parish, said. “These funds were to help provide for the humane and loving treatment of stray and homeless animals.”
An investigation against manager Denise McCoy Manger, 40, was launched after PAWS board members became aware of the possible theft. They contacted authorities and two detectives decided to set up an undercover operation.
“Our primary concern is the safety and welfare of the dogs and cats at PAWS,” Chris Beebe, President of PAWS, said. “As soon as we became aware of a discrepancy, we contacted the Plaquemines Sheriff’s Office and are cooperating fully with the investigation.”
On Sunday, June 23, the two undercover detectives adopted two dogs from the PAWS shelter in Belle Chase. They paid $260 in cash. The money from the adoption was placed into safekeeping for future deposit by Manger. However, the money never ended up in the shelter’s account. Rather, it was spent at a local business.
Detectives were able to recover the money. The following day, they questioned Manger about the missing money.
“During questioning, Manger confessed that she has been stealing PAWS adoption money, as well as donations to the organization, to support her prescription drug addiction,” a press release noted. “She went on to state that she could not provide a total amount that she has stolen since it had been occurring for a long period of time.”
Investigators have worked with PAWS board members to determine exactly how much money went missing. They say nearly $40,000 is missing from 2013 alone. Manger has been in charge of the funds for the shelter from April 2012 until the conclusion of the investigation.
Manager was arrested and charged with felony Theft. She is currently being held without bond in the Belle Chase Lockup.
Officials hope the community will not let this incident prevent future dealings with the non-profit organization.
“PAWS still needs the support of friends, volunteers, and the community, during this difficult time to continue our mission to rescue, shelter, and adopt healthy dogs and cats,” Beebe said.