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      Workers fired, grant funding suspended after alleged fraud

      By Nikki Gaskinsngaskins@abcnews4.com

      NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- For nearly 40 years, the organization, People Against Rape, has been helping sexual assault victims. The future of the organization is now{}uncertain.

      "If this is not resolved quickly, there's going to be some reorganization and possibly some scaling back of services," said president Michael Roach.

      The SC Department of Public Safety and DHEC suspended grant payments to the organization after learning of accounting irregularities. That means People Against Rape is now out of $300,000. The amount of funding lost makes up the bulk of the organization's $460,000 budget.

      With funding now dramatically reduced, eight employees had to be let go and the organization will have to rely more on volunteers. The organization is down to just two paid staff members.

      Roach puts the blame on a former bookkeeper who he says{}mismanaged anywhere from $60,000 to $80,000 of the organization's money. This included anything from fake receipts to IRS checks that were never submitted.

      North Charleston police identify the bookkeeper as 49-year-old Joyce Ann Fotheringham.

      "On one end of the table we have gross incompetence and on the other hand, we have just down right stealing," said Roach. "If there's five dollars that we can prove that somebody stolethat person is going to jail."

      North Charleston Police confirm{}the organization filed a complaint on August 31st. Roach says the alleged fraud goes back to at least April 2010, however no criminal charges have been filed.

      "That was the first quarter the IRS taxes were not paid," stated Roach.

      When confronted about several transactions in December, the former bookkeeper abruptly resigned.

      "She said she never took any money," said Roach. "She said she sent in a schedule for a payment plan for the executive director to sign. She told me she also called the IRS and when I informed her that there will be a record or log of that, she says, 'Well, I may not have identified myself.'"

      Roach says everything from rent to IRS employee withholding taxes went unpaid.

      "I do know the IRS is supposedly already interviewing her," said Roach. "We've already made two large payments to the IRS based on our budgetover $5,000 to try to get these taxes paid."

      At least $3,000 has also been spent on an audit, according to Roach.

      "I think it's going to get worse before it gets better," he stated. "We didn't know the extent of some of these things that were going on, and when you're trying to go back and get records, it doesn't happen in a day."

      While the future of the organization appears grim, Roach hopes to rise above this setback in order to continue serving the many people who depend on them.

      "We're trying to do everything we can," said Roach.

      To help the organization, you can donate by calling them at 843-745-0144 or by e-mail at par@peopleagainstrape.org.

      Their physical address is:

      People Against Rape2154 North Center StreetSuite C-302North Charleston, SC 29405

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