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Former Safe House for Women director charged with stealing from shelter

Allison Christine Leonard, 43, of Cape Girardeau is charged with theft/stealing and fraudulent use of credit/debit device. Allison Christine Leonard, 43, of Cape Girardeau is charged with theft/stealing and fraudulent use of credit/debit device.
CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - A former director of the Safe House for Women faces charges after police say she used more than $20,000 in funds designated for the not-for-profit domestic violence agency to go on shopping trips and pay bills. 

Allison Christine Leonard, 43, of Cape Girardeau is charged with theft/stealing (value of property or services is $500 or more but less than $25,000) and fraudulent use of credit/debit device.

Leonard was appointed the director of the Safe House for Women in November 2013. After she was appointed, she was issued a Visa credit card from US Bank for the Safe House. After she was issued the card, she began using it for personal use, according to court documents.

Leonard is accused of using the credit card to pay for her car insurance, car payment, taxes on a vehicle, her son's college tuition, and a Sprint wireless payment. She is also accused of using the card for shopping trips to Kohls, Academy Sports, Amazon, Walmart.com, Rhodes 101 and other businesses throughout Cape Girardeau.

Most of the funds from that card are made up of donations to the Safe House, according to court documents.

After Leonard was fired, staff found credit card statements that were maintained by Leonard in her office. Transactions and cash advances had been whited out and a photocopy placed in the file for audit purposes, according to the probable cause statement. An auditing firm found those statements with large sections missing and alerted a board member about the suspicious statements. 

After she was confronted, Leonard admitted to two different board members that she had used the card and Safe House funds to pay for the transactions, according the probable cause statement.

Chairman of the Safe House for Women Board, Rick Althaus, released the following statement:

"During the course of our organization's routine financial audit last November, the Board of Directors became aware that there appeared to have been improper use of a Safe House credit card by an employee and improper procedures used regarding payment of credit card bills. The matter was referred to Cape PD. We have assisted where we could in the investigation of the matter, and the Board is supportive of the bringing of criminal charges. Our financial analysts have determined that no grant funds or fundraising receipts were misappropriated. Within the organization, we have made some staffing changes and some procedural changes to safeguard the financial resources of the Safe House, to maintain the confidence of our donors and financial partners, and to continue our important work of helping the community be safe from domestic violence."

Deb Maevers, executive director of the VintageNOW Fashion Show, also released a statement:

"I am saddened to the core upon learning of this situation. Since this is an ongoing criminal investigation and I am becoming aware of the charges as they are reported, I do not feel it appropriate to comment on the charges. While I have never served on the board of the Safe house personally, I do know that many great people with the Safe House are completely dedicated and work tirelessly to help victims of domestic violence. Myself and all of the passionate volunteers with the VintageNOW fashion show have always been solely committed to helping victims of domestic violence and remain wholeheartedly loyal to that cause. The Safe House for Women as an organization has always conducted itself with integrity in dealing with the VintageNOW fundraising efforts and me personally. This situation is so very unfortunate and I hope it does not overshadow the sincere efforts to help the women and families in need."

United Way Director Nancy Jernigan said auditing the accounts of organizations they support is paramount to maintaining integrity and the trust of the community.

"We shouldn't let this one incident overshadows the intity as a whole," Jernigan said. "People who are in non-profits are in them because they are passionate about making a difference."

Jernigan said the United Way continues to stand behind the Safe House.

Allison Leonard is set to be in court for her arraignment on March 9.

We reached out to her and she asked us not to contact her again.

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