Former Charleston County employee charged with embezzling public funds

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A former Charleston County employee surrendered to authorities Friday morning after investigators discovered suspicious charges on a county-issued credit card, deputies say.

Patty Simmons Pace, 51, faces a charge of embezzlement of public funds under $25,000, according to Charleston County spokesperson Kelsey Barlow-Rowland.

A judge handed Pace a $15,000 personal recognizance bond Friday afternoon for the charge. This means if she does not show up for her next court appearance she will have to pay the amount.

Pace, a 12-year county employee with the Emergency Management Department, was placed on administrative leave during the internal investigation and resigned from Charleston County Government on Oct. 4, Barlow-Rowland said.

Pace turned herself in to deputies Friday, Charleston County Sheriff's Maj. Eric Watson said.

Deputies responded to the Charleston County Emergency Operations Center back in September on a report of a fraud case as an internal audit was underway, an incident report states.

According to a court affidavit, Pace converted public money to her own use totaling $24,707.48 from Charleston County. Investigators state she was a Senior Emergency Management Specialist with the County.

Investigators say suspicious charges on the card had been discovered and reported. Pace told deputies in September several of the charges were her personal charges and that she used the card by mistake because her county-issued card looks like her personal bank card.

Pace identified 18 different charges from between July 10 and Sept. 8, totaling $4,753.30, that she said were hers, the report states.

She said some earlier charges could also be hers but she would have to research that first, the report states. Deputies say she stated she was willing to pay back the money.

When asked why she did not let her boss know about the mistakes, she said she was waiting for bank statements to come in first, the report states.

When asked why most of the charges on her account were marked as reconciled and verified legitimate charges, Pace said she did not have formal training on the system and was told to reconcile all the statements, the report states. She told investigators that did not mean the charges were legitimate, the report states.

A court affidavit stated on October 25 detectives received a report from the internal auditor's office showing fraudulent charges starting on October 16, 2013, all from Pace's County issued credit card. Authorities said the charges were items not authorized, had missing receipts, or items were not located within the County.

Nearly one month later, a witness spoke to authorities to verify the unauthorized charges, and that 11 monthly cardholder activity cover sheets had a forged manager's signature, according to the affidavit. As a result of the inaccuracies, Charleston County had to pay Bank of America nearly $25,000 for Pace's alleged fraudulent use of the county-issued credit card.

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