Beaufort News

Former treasurer of school group accused of misusing funds

A 31-year-old Beaufort woman will appear in municipal court Monday to face accusations she used money belonging to Beaufort Elementary School's Parent Action Committee for personal use while serving as its treasurer.

Melissa Otero was charged Sept. 29 with one count of breach of trust with fraudulent intent for allegedly making personal purchases and ATM withdrawals with the committee's debit card.

The charge is a misdemeanor because the amount she is accused of misusing, $1,900, is less than $2,000 threshold that would make it a felony charge, according to police.

Lt. Darrel Gruel of the Beaufort Police Department said committee members became suspicious of Otero's purchases with the card while she was treasurer from August 2009 to July 2011.

"Upon further investigation, it seemed those purchases were for her personal use and not for the committee," Gruel said. "They asked us to look into it; we took over the investigation and gathered enough evidence to charge her."

Gruel said Otero made purchases at "local department stores, restaurants and specialty stores" and made unauthorized ATM withdrawals.

Otero was released from the county detention center on her own recognizance less than five hours after she was arrested, according to the jail log.

If convicted, she faces up to 30 days in jail and a $2,000 fine.

Attempts Thursday to reach some committee members were unsuccessful.

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