J. Marion Sims Foundation reports possible theft of $220k

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Employee identified as suspect

By Chris Sardelli

An investigation into missing funds from the J. Marion Sims Foundation has revealed a potential suspect in the possible theft of at least $220,000.

Local authorities first learned of the missing funds when foundation director Jim Morton filed an incident report with Lancaster Police Department on Friday, Feb. 22. 

Morton told officers there was evidence of employee theft from the organization estimated, at that point, to possibly be $220,000, according to report. 

During that conversation, Morton told officers he and other members of the foundation’s board of directors were informed by an independent auditing firm on Feb. 19 there was a discrepancy in their account, the report said. 

Morton told officers he spoke with an employee about the theft and the employee admitted to taking money, though the employee could not reimburse the foundation, the report said. 

The employee’s name is not being reported since no formal charges have been filed and any arrests made. 

The incident report said per foundation records, the money began to be taken out of the account “sometime in late 2012 or 2011 and the auditing firm was going back several years further.”

Morton told officers he wouldn’t be certain of the amount missing or when the theft occurred until bank records of the transactions become available, the report said. 

Lancaster Police Chief Harlean Howard commented briefly on the case Tuesday, Feb. 26. 

“We’ve received the initial report and the case will be under investigation,” Howard said.

Due to the circumstances of the case, Howard could not comment on whether the investigation would be completed by her department or by the S.C. Law Enforcement Division. 

SLED handled a similar case in May 2012 of missing funds from a charitable organization when it investigated, and later charged, a former bookkeeper with HOPE in Lancaster for forgery and theft. 

The missing funds were first revealed publicly in a press release issued by the J. Marion Sims Foundation on Friday, Feb. 22.

The release only revealed that a former employee was involved and the theft was discovered during the course of an annual independent audit.

Although the release did not list an amount stolen, when the theft occurred, or the name of the employee, the release said the amount was “not insignificant.” 

“The loss will not impair the foundation’s day-to-day operations or its grant making,” the release said.

The foundation is now working with its auditors, legal counsel, insurance carriers and law enforcement on the case. The foundation’s press release said since the matter is an ongoing investigation, it would have no further comment on the matter.

The J. Marion Sims Foundation was formed in 1995 with proceeds from the 1994 sale of Elliott White Springs Memorial Hospital. The Foundation’s mission is to support programs and projects of prevention and education that enhance the health and wellness of the residents of Lancaster County and the communities of Great Falls and Fort Lawn.

In 2012, the foundation awarded more than $1.25 million in grants to 22 organizations throughout the community. 


– Editor’s note: Copy editor Greg Summers contributed to this report.