Former Lake Tahoe Humane Society director arrested in Tennessee after embezzlement charge
August 2, 2018
The former executive director of the Lake Tahoe Humane Society was arrested in Knoxville, Tennessee Tuesday after being charged with embezzlement.
Detectives with the South Lake Tahoe Police Department flew to Knoxville Tuesday to arrest Nicola (Niki) Congero, who moved to Lake Tahoe from Las Vegas in 2014 to work for the Humane Society.
Congero, 50, worked as executive director of the South Lake Tahoe-based nonprofit for approximately three years.
As previously reported by the Tribune, Congero was fired in March 2017 after the board of directors learned of the alleged embezzlement. The board contacted law enforcement, sparking a year-long investigation into the nonprofit's finances and Congero's behavior.
According to police, that investigation revealed Congero used her Humane Society debit card to gamble and pay for expenses including rental furniture for her home, dentist bills, family cell phones, repairs to family vehicles, and numerous point of sale purchases with cash back.
The police department estimates Congero allegedly took $60,000 during her tenure with the Humane Society.
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Police say the investigation was lengthy and in depth — a fact due, in part, to poor record keeping by the nonprofit.
"SLTPD detectives were given bankers boxes full of receipts dating back three years that needed to each be investigated as to if it was a legitimate Humane Society expense or a fraudulent one," states a press release from the South Lake Tahoe Police Department. "Several of the purchases were for legitimate expenses, however, Congero also withdrew cash at the point of sale which was not authorized."
On July 27, the El Dorado County District Attorney charged Congero with embezzlement.
It's unclear if she has legal representation.
Adam Spicer, Congero's attorney at the time the allegations became public, has not responded to an inquiry from the Tribune.
At the time the allegations emerged Spicer told the Tribune he was confident they would be proven false.
"… We are very confident that the facts are clear here that the board just really mismanaged the money, and we are looking forward to vindicating her.”
Congero moved to Knoxville during the investigation into the embezzlement allegation. Detectives stayed aware of her location with help from the Knoxville Police Department, according to police.
Congero was booked into the Knoxville jail on $200,000 bail and is awaiting extradition, according to South Lake Tahoe police.