DA: Former Lake Tahoe Humane Society director pleads guilty to embezzlement
The former executive director of the Lake Tahoe Humane Society pleaded guilty to felony embezzlement Monday.
Nicola “Nikki” Congero entered the plea as part of an agreement struck with the prosecution, according to the El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office.
The development comes nearly two months after Congero was arrested in Knoxville, Tennessee by South Lake Tahoe police detectives.
An 18-month investigation into alleged embezzlement revealed Congero spent $59,664 of local Humane Society money for personal reasons, per the DA’s office.
As part of her plea agreement, Congero will repay that money to the nonprofit, which has since scaled back services and brought on an entirely new board of directors.
She also will be placed on formal probation for a period of four years, serve six months in the El Dorado County jail and acquiesce to warrantless search and seizure of her person, home, vehicle and electronics, according to the DA’s office. Congero also will be required to abstain from all forms of gambling and she will be barred from obtaining employment with any business that would require her to handle money.
She will be unable to request a reduction in charges or expungement until the full amount of restitution is repaid.
Congero, 50, was hired by the Lake Tahoe Humane Society in early 2014. During her three-year tenure with the nonprofit, she used Humane Society dollars for furniture for her home, personal vehicle repair, airline tickets, cell phone coverage, retreat expenses and other unauthorized personal expenses, according to the DA’s office.
As previously reported by the Tribune, Congero was fired in March 2017 after the board of directors learned of “certain potential irregularities” concerning the nonprofit’s financial status.
The board contacted law enforcement, sparking the investigation into the Humane Society’s finances and Congero’s behavior.
On July 27 the DA filed a criminal complaint in El Dorado County Superior Court. Detectives flew to Knoxville, where she was living at the time, and arrested her days after the complaint was filed.
Judgement and sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 5 at 1:30 p.m.
The Tribune has reached out to a man believed to be Congero’s attorney as well as the current vice president of the Lake Tahoe Humane Society. We will update this story if we hear back from those individuals.