Granddaughter of Bethune-Cookman University founder pleads no contest to embezzlement charges

'This was a woman we adored:' Nonprofit members feel betrayed by Evelyn Bethune

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The granddaughter of the founder of Bethune-Cookman University, not only faced a judge Wednesday, but also members of the organization she's accused of stealing from.

"This was a woman we adored, we loved, we thought she was wonderful. She walked on water, practically," said Janie Owens, the president of the Daytona chapter of the National League of American Pen Women.

Evelyn Bethune, 66, plead no contest to charges of scheming to defraud and two counts of grand theft of more than $23,000. Bethune's attorney, Michael Lambert, spoke on her behalf.

"People find themselves in certain circumstances at certain times, and that's why she felt it was in her best interest to resolve it this way," Lambert said.

Daytona Beach police said she used her position as treasurer of the nonprofit organization to steal more than $23,000, and used the money on restaurants, grocery shopping, hair and nail appointments and even trips to the chiropractor.

"She stabbed us in the back and took money from us," Owens said.

Owens said the organization is so much in the red, it can no longer award scholarships to deserving students.

"Our branch has pretty well dissolved. It's all been hanging on by a thread and I expect it will dissolve now," she said.

Bethune's attorney said under state law, his client can only be convicted of the offense, which is scheme to defraud. Bethune could possibly face up to 25 years behind bars, but he said it's not likely she will. Lambert said Bethune will be collecting money from family and friends to pay back what she allegedly stole from the organization.

"The woman doesn't have money. We'll never see it," said Owens.

Bethune's sentencing is scheduled for March 26.

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