ST. GEORGE, Utah -- Directors of local animal rescue group say a trusted volunteer stole $10,000 from the organization's cash drawer over the course of a year, and it may mean fewer animals get saved.
Police arrested 32-year-old Erin Chapman last week on theft charges.
Records show Chapman had been taking money from the Providing Animals With Support organization since she started volunteering there almost a year ago, said PAWS president Lynn Burger.
“It started by noticing there was some money missing out of the donation box,” Burger said. “There also just seemed to be a lack of money in the filing cabinet when there should have been more in there.”
A video camera was set up in the office.
Burger said the cameras captured Chapman taking money.
The former PAWS volunteer is now charged with felony theft.
“Initially she was arrested with a class a misdemeanor,” said St. George police Sgt. Sam Despain. “However, since that time, PAWS has brought forth some additional information where they suspect that dollar amount is much greater.”
Chapman appeared in court Tuesday to be arraigned on charges. She wouldn’t comment on the accusations against her but maintained innocence.
Burger said the loss of funds will hurt the operation. She added PAWS typically see expenses of around $8,000 for vet bills and other items for the rescued animals.
“If we don’t recoup some of this money, then we maybe won’t be able to save as many,” Burger said. “That’s what hurts the most.”
While PAWS has made changes to policy and procedure to make sure there isn’t theft in the future, Burger said, the most difficult thing to recover from is that breach of trust.
PAWS is a small organization and they rely on those volunteers.
“I’m angry and I’m sad,” Burger said. “If she needed some help… we probably would have helped her.”
Chapman will be back in court March 17.
More information on the PAWS organization, including donation information can be found on their website, here: www.dixiepaws.org