Salvation Army employee accused of using payroll scheme to embezzle $200,000

A woman who administered the payroll at The Salvation Army’s divisional administrative office in Charlotte embezzled at least $200,000 through a pre-paid debit card scheme, according to a federal bill of indictment.

A grand jury on Friday indicted 41-year-old Susan Watson of Gastonia on a wire fraud charge, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney Andrew Murray’s office in Charlotte.

Watson was not an employee of The Salvation Army of Greater Charlotte, and “no local monies or programs are impacted,” said Brent Rinehart, director of communications for The Salvation Army of Greater Charlotte, in an email to The Charlotte Observer Friday night.

“The Salvation Army is fully insured; therefore, none of the monies entrusted to The Salvation Army were lost,” Rinehart said in an email. “This theft did not impact services of The Salvation Army in any of the Salvation Army’s North and South Carolina locations.”

Salvation Army officials filed a police report in February 2018, saying an employee at the Charlotte divisional headquarters had embezzled nearly $230,000, The Charlotte Observer previously reported. The employee’s name was not released at the time.

According to the indictment, from July 2015 to November 2017, Watson created fraudulent pre-paid debit cards in the names of current and former employees of the Charlotte headquarters. She used their personal information to produce the cards, court records show.

She loaded money onto the cards and used the cash “for her personal benefit, including ATM cash withdrawals,” according to the news release. The indictment doesn’t say what she bought with the money.

A federal summons for Watson has been issued, prosecutors said Friday. If convicted, she faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

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Joe Marusak has been a reporter for The Charlotte Observer since 1989 covering the people, municipalities and major news events of the region, and was a news bureau editor for the paper. He currently reports on breaking news.