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NPO Finance Exec Admits Stealing At Least $800,000

Rodney Ellis, the former financial officer of Sumter Behavioral Health Services (SBHS), a Sumter, S.C.-based nonprofit substance abuse assistance and treatment organization, pleaded guilty to diverting more than $800,000 from the organization to his personal bank accounts, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina.

Ellis had been employed by SBHS between 2002 and December 2020, according to charges filed in the District Court of the United States for the District of South Carolina Columbia Division. Between 2013 and 2020, Ellis wired funds from SBHS banking accounts to his personal accounts in the amount of roughly $812,259.07. The funds were routed via a server located outside South Carolina. The funds had not been approved by SBHS’s board.

Ellis signed a plea agreement in which he admitted to one count of wire fraud. The charge carries a maximum prison term of up to 20 years, a fine of $250,000 and supervised release for up to three years. Ellis is also required to surrender the full amount he admitted to diverting, along with related interest and proceeds associated with his theft. A sentencing date has not been announced.

“Behavioral health organizations depend on every dollar allocated to treat those seeking help for their substance abuse challenges,” said FBI Columbia Special Agent in Charge Susan Ferensic via a statement. “It is inexcusable for someone with a high-ranking position, like Ellis, to steal the organization’s funds for personal benefit.”

“This Office is committed to prosecuting economic crimes, especially those that take advantage of organizations that treat some of the most vulnerable in our community,” U.S. Attorney Corey F. Ellis said in a statement. “We appreciate the efforts of all state and federal agencies involved in this case.”

SBHS, which was formerly called the Sumter Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse and which still files Form 990s under that name, reported revenue of more than $2.1 million for the year ending June 30, 2020. At that time, the organization had net assets of just under $1.5 million.

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