NEWS

Woman charged with stealing $89,000 from Humane Society

John Ford

A Noel woman and original board member of the New-Mac Regional Humane Society has been charged with stealing more than $89,000 from that organization.

Pat LeSueur faces a Class B felony count of stealing more than $25,000 from the organization.

Bill Dobbs, Newton County assistant prosecutor, said LeSueur wrote more than $89,000 in checks to herself over a three-year period on the organization’s account. The prosecutor’s office reviewed paperwork Tuesday before filing the felony charge that afternoon.

“I think the investigation has been going on for a number of weeks,” said Dobbs. “The Neosho Police Department has been working with the board. The humane society has had an audit as well as forensic accounting done.”

Dobbs said according to the probable cause affidavit, LeSueur has made “some admissions” in regard to the missing funds. However, as Dobbs did not have the document in front of him Tuesday evening, he could not comment on what these admissions were. Dobbs added LeSueur has been cooperating with the investigation.

A Class B felony, the charge carries a penalty of five to 15 years in prison if a conviction is reached.

Neosho Police Chief Dave McCracken said LeSueur turned herself in to the McDonald County Sheriff’s Office late Tuesday afternoon and posted bond. Her bond was set at $50,000, meaning she had to put up 10 percent of that amount.

LeSueur’s husband, Michael, is a canine officer and investigator with the McDonald County Sheriff’s Department. The effect of these charges on his employment with the department is currently unknown. McDonald County Sheriff Don Schlessman was unable to be reached for comment Tuesday evening.

Noel Mayor Paul Gardner said LeSueur had taken a week of personal leave from her position as Noel city clerk before the charges were filed Tuesday. This leave may now be for an indefinite period, he indicated.

However, a source close to the investigation who asked his name not be used said LeSueur had been relieved of her duties as Noel city clerk.

Fred Clark, a humane society board member, deferred questions to Pineville attorney Duane Cooper, whom he said was spokesman for the group. Cooper could not be reached for comment Tuesday evening.

However, local animal advocate Karol Mayer expressed anger and shock over the news about the missing funds.

“My God!” she exclaimed upon hearing more than $89,000 had reportedy been taken from humane society coffers. “She (allegedly) took about all the Moark money.”

Mayer is referring to a $100,000 settlement Moark was ordered to give the society in 2005 in exchange for dropping misdemeanor charges of animal cruelty. An amateur video that showed lived chickens being tossed into a Dumpster led to charges against the defendants for purposely killing chickens “in a manner not allowed by the law,” according to charges.

Mayer said she was upset and outraged about the alleged embezzlement.

“I’m very angry, No. 1, that someone could steal public funds, because that’s what they were, basically. And No. 2, to do that for a cause they were trying to promote. I can’t believe she would do that. When you do things like that, you’re going to get caught. She probably had good intentions at first, but got caught up in greed.

“I also think the board had the best intentions, but why were there no checks and balances system? Why wasn’t the account set up with two or more signatures required? I don’t want to chastise the board, but I do feel that was really a terrible error. Anybody who can go in and has control without any checks and balances, that’s wrong.”

Mayer said in recent months, board members have had suspicions about missing funds.

“But we couldn’t come out and voice our suspicions,” she said. “You just can’t accuse someone of something like that.”

Also recently, Mayer has begun distancing herself from the humane society group, and is trying to establish a no-kill animal shelter called Faithful Friends Animal Advocates. She will have a booth in front of her business, GalaxSea Cruises and Tours, during the upcoming Neosho Fall Festival on Saturday. She added her goal is to establish a no-kill rescue shelter patterned after Best Friends, a Utah organization that is currently rehabilitating dogs belonging to Atlanta Falcon’s quarterback Michael Vick, who was sentenced in December to 23 months in prison on dogfighting charges.

Neosho Daily News