SLED: Former president stole over $71K from CAS

Charles Karesh (CCSO)

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- The former president of the Charleston Animal Society who stepped down from the post more than a year ago has been charged with embezzlement of public funds.

The State Law Enforcement Division brought the charges against Charles Karesh Thursday.

According to the affidavit, Karesh stole $71,388 while acting as Executive Director and Chairman of the Board of Directors between September 2007 and September 2011.

Karesh is accused of writing personal checks made out to the CAS and cashing them at the shelter. Those checks bounced which led to more fees for CAS.

The arrest comes just a week after Karesh was arrested for malicious injury to real property after allegedly being caught on camera spitting soup on a former coworker's car.

The coworker and Karesh worked together at CAS until Karesh left the organization during an embezzlement scandal.

If found guilty, Karesh faces fines and up to 10 years in prison.

CAS issued a statement Friday, detailing how the organization discovered the missing money and what came after.

"In September of 2011, the Charleston Animal Society learned Board President Charles Karesh had taken a significant amount of funds from the organization by writing a series of checks to the organization on an account with insufficient funds. The Board demanded Mr. Karesh's resignation and conducted three audits to determine the amount of money missing. CAS' sole objective thereafter was to recover the missing moneys and devote them to CAS' mission: saving abused and injured animals. CAS achieved this objective; full restitution of the missing funds was made as of March 20, 2012," the group said. "After SLED initiated an investigation, CAS advised SLED that full restitution had been made and that it did not wish to pursue criminal charges but fully cooperated with SLED's investigation. After investigation, SLED made the decision to arrest Mr. Karesh."

CAS said it has since taken steps to prevent another issue, including creating separate finance and finance committees and a rotating set of auditors, and hiring a new financial and executive officers who have experience in the nonprofit sector.

"Charleston Animal Society has become the most recognized animal charity in South Carolina, having achieved two of the nonprofit sector's highest awards for fiscal responsibility - Charity Navigator's top rating of 4 stars and earning Guidestar's 'Seal of Transparency.' Furthermore, our continued efforts on saving animals inspired the community to select us as the Lowcountry's Nonprofit of the Year," the group said.