Woman who stole from Conway Area Humane Society going to jail

By Daymond Steer

Constance-HargerConstance Harger turns to look at a supporter at her sentencing hearing Thursday. (DAYMOND STEER PHOTO)OSSIPEE — The woman who admitted to stealing about $27,000 from Conway Area Humane Society was sentenced to a year in jail on Thursday.

Appearing before Carroll County Superior Court Judge Amy Ignatius, Constance Harger, 48, pleaded guilty to two felony counts of theft and one misdemeanor count of tampering with public or private records in connection to the theft of $27,470 from the Humane Society. 

Harger had been the Humane Society's finance and event manager.

In addition to receiving the jail sentence, Harger also was ordered to make restitution of the amount she stole.

Harger's criminal activity took place in 2014 and 2015, according to Assistant Carroll County Attorney Kim Tessari.

Tessari said Harger made false entries in the Humane Society's books to cover her tracks, and spent the embezzled funds on personal expenses such as plane tickets, bills and personal expenses.

The theft was discovered after an accountant began working with the Humane Society to train Harger's replacement.

According to a Conway Police affidavit, Humane Society Executive Director Virginia Moore told police Harger's $1,000 flight to Colorado for a job interview was paid for with stolen funds.

About 10 members of the Humane Society staff were in the audience at Harger's sentencing.

Conway Area Humane Society Operations Manager Deb Cameron received permission to address the court.

Cameron said that Humane Society's staff felt deeply betrayed because money generated by their hard work was stolen by someone pretending to be a friend.

Harger kept her back turned as Cameron spoke.

"I think about all the animals we had to say 'no' to because Ms. Harger was using donations to get her hair and nails done," Cameron continued. "All of the animals who suffered because we didn't have enough money in our medical fund because Ms. Harger felt buying cigarettes, new shoes or clothes was more important than letting us do our jobs.

"The pain and suffering of every animal we had to turn away because of her greed is something that will haunt me forever," she said.

Cameron said Harger would post on social media about what a champion of animals she was and would talk about her vegan diet but also came into work with new leather purses.

Cameron asked Ignatius to impose the most serious sentence possible.

Harger, who was represented by public defender Steve Mirkin, also spoke.

Harger said she regretted her actions.

"I made horrible choices," she said tearfully. "I never intended to hurt the shelter — they trusted me — or the animals or anyone. I'm very sorry for what I did."

After taking statements from the Humane Society and Harger, Ignatius imposed the prosecution's recommended sentence, which she called a good balance of punishment, deterrence, rehabilitation and restitution.

On one of the theft charges, Harger received a year in jail and on the other charge, a two-to-five-year state prison sentence that would be suspended for two years after her release from jail.

She was given two years of probation to begin after release from her jail sentence, plus 22 days of pretrial confinement credit.

Harger also is obligated to pay the $27,470 to the Conway Area Humane Society's insurance company.

On the misdemeanor charge of tampering with records, she was given a year in jail that will be suspended for five years after she is released from jail on the first sentence. 

Ignatius also gave Harger 22 days of pretrial confinement credit.

The judge added that Harger will have plenty of time to ponder her conduct in jail and hopefully will better herself.

"You had some horrendously bad choices," said Ignatius. "Even if you pay all the money back, it doesn't undo what you have done."