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Accountant charged with stealing $15,000 from Penn Center

While working as an accountant at the historic Penn Center on St. Helena Island, Ann Marie Long was responsible for depositing checks and cash into the organization's accounts.

The checks were always deposited, but the cash never made it into the bank, authorities say.

Long, 41, of Lady's Island, was charged Wednesday with two counts of breach of trust with fraudulent intent. Beaufort County Sheriff's Office investigators say she bilked $15,000 from the center, money that has not been recovered.

Long worked for Penn Center for about four months last year before being suspended in December. Auditorsfound several discrepancies in the organization's accounts and alerted authorities, according to Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Sgt. Robin McIntosh.

When sheriff's investigators discovered that Long had been pocketing cash deposits, she was fired and soon fled to Boston, McIntosh said.

"She reportedly bounced around Boston and Baltimore over the last four months, staying with various friends and family," McIntosh said. "She was arrested on (Wednesday) when investigators located her returning to Beaufort County at the bus station."

Long was being held Friday at the Beaufort County Detention Center with bond set at $6,000, according to the jail log. She faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

Walter Mack, the center's executive director, declined to talk Friday about Long's employment but said the organization has taken steps to prevent similar thefts.

"The board recently adopted a new strategic plan that includes working more closely with our auditors and instituting more safeguards," Mack said. "It's very important for us to be good stewards of (our money) and of the people who work so hard to find funding for Penn Center."

Designated a National Historical Site in 1974, Penn Center sits on 50 acres that was home to the Penn School, one of the country's oldest schools originally formed for freed slaves.

The campus and the nonprofit organization that owns it sponsor lectures, exhibits and other events year-round to promote and preserve Gullah culture and the history of the Sea Islands, according to its website

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