South Carolina

Former York chamber of commerce head stole from organization, police say

Mary Catherine Ward
Mary Catherine Ward York County Sheriff's Office

The former head of the chamber of commerce in York was arrested Thursday on charges that she stole money from the organization for personal use, according to police and jail records.

Mary Catherine Ward, 50, is the former executive director of the Greater York Chamber of Commerce. Ward was arrested by South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division agents Thursday on charges of breach of trust with fraudulent intent of between $2,000 and $10,000, and financial card fraud of less than $500, police and jail records show.

Ward stole the money between March 2017 and April 2018, police said in an arrest warrant served on Ward Thursday.

“Mary Catherine Ward used funds belonging to the York County Chamber of Commerce for personal transactions without the consent of the account holder,” an arrest warrant states.

Police have not said what Ward used the money for or how she was able to steal for more than a year before the theft was uncovered.

SLED spokesperson Thom Berry confirmed Ward was taken into custody by SLED agents Thursday following a months-long investigation.

Willy Thompson, 16th Circuit deputy solicitor, also confirmed charges had been filed, but declined to comment on the specifics of the case.

Ward, who now lives in Hilton Head according to York County jail records, was released after posting a $5,000 bond, jail records show.

The breach of trust charge is a felony and carries a maximum sentence of five years for a conviction under South Carolina law. The credit card fraud charge is a misdemeanor.

York Mayor Eddie Lee said city leaders and officials were aware of the investigation.

“The Greater York Chamber of Commerce has always been about more than one person, and this organization and community will continue to move forward,” Lee said.

Ward left the chamber earlier this year.

The chamber’s board cooperated with SLED investigators who were checking into the financial irregularities of the organization, said Ainslee Moss, president of the chamber’s board of directors.

“We are pleased to hear that the SLED investigation into alleged financial irregularities at the Greater York Chamber of Commerce is moving into the indictment phase,” Moss said in a statement to The Herald. “Our board of directors has and will continue to provide full cooperation, and we believe that justice will be served.”

The chamber announced a change in leadership hiring a new executive director, Melissa Noebes. Noebes was hired in October.

The chamber of commerce is a business advocacy organization representing more than 300 businesses in western York County, including the city of York and towns of Smyrna, Hickory Grove, McConnells and Sharon. The chamber’s board of directors includes business, education and civic leaders from western York County.

According to the chamber’s website, its mission is “to serve our members by advocating for common interests, stimulating the expansion of the regional economy and enhancing the quality of life in our communities.”

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