DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The granddaughter of the Bethune-Cookman University founder was arrested Thursday in Daytona Beach after police said Evelyn Bethune defrauded the local chapter of the Pen Women of Florida while serving as its treasurer.
Detectives with the Daytona Beach Police Department began investigating Bethune, 66, the granddaughter of BCU founder Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, in February after the president of the nonprofit reported a possible embezzlement to the department.
"She’s a lovely person. We loved her. We trusted her," said the group's president, Janie Owens. "For this to happen, it was devastating."
The National League of American Pen Women is an organization of women in arts who offer support to up-and-coming talented women through financial aid and encouragement. The Daytona Beach branch is one of the oldest in Florida, established in 1924, according to the nonprofit’s website.
Bethune was arrested on a warrant Thursday and charged with grand theft and organizing a scheme to defraud.
Detectives said they found through bank records that Bethune spent more than $20,000 in funds that belonged to the Daytona Beach chapter of Pen Women of Florida.
Bethune spent money from the Pen Women of Florida account on Starbucks, Florida Health care, Bahama Breeze, Publix, getting her nails done, gas purchases, flowers and chiropractor appointments, according to the arrest report.
Bank statements showed multiple transfers from the nonprofit’s account to Bethune’s personal account, officials said.
Detectives said the Daytona Beach chapter was on the verge of shutting down because of all the funds stolen by Bethune.
"How could she not think that she would get caught? I don’t understand," Owens said.
Bethune emailed the organization’s board in March asking for impunity if she returned all the funds by December. The board members told police they do not believe Bethune will replace the money and decided to press charges.
This isn’t the first time Bethune has been accused of grand theft. She was sentenced to five years probation in 1991 for writing worthless checks of more than $6,000.
In 1996, she was accused of violating her probation and misappropriating funds while at the University of Florida earning her doctorate and heading the Institute of Black Culture, the Orlando Sentinel reported.
Bethune is the managing editor at Mary McLeod Bethune Educational Legacy Foundation, Inc. and is retired, according to her Facebook page. She is no longer listed as a member of the Daytona Beach branch of the National League of American Pen Women.