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Former SCAA Director Enters Plea For Embezzlement Charge

WATER VALLEY – The former director of the Second Chance Animal Alliance (SCAA) entered an Alford plea for an embezzlement charge. Melissa Smith was indicted by a grand jury in 2020 and entered the plea during a hearing Thursday.

According to the indictment, as an agent of SCAA Smith converted to her own use approximately $33,000, the personal property of SCAA. The embezzlement occurred between January 1, 2015 and December 31, 2018.

An Alford plea is a guilty plea in criminal court whereby a defendant does not admit to the criminal act and asserts innocence, but admits that the evidence presented by the prosecution would be likely to persuade a judge or jury to find a defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Assistant District Attorney Steve Jubera reported a negotiated plea deal was reached whereby Smith can pay $8,750 in restitution to SCAA and have the charges non-adjudicated. The non-adjudication allows a first-time, nonviolent defendant to complete certain conditions and avoid a felony conviction on their record.

“Those were the dollars that were very plainly and clearly misappropriated,” Jubera reported about the amount of restitution. “This is a standard embezzlement case where you don’t go into it with the intent to do any harm, however things get away from you and before you realize what happens thousands of dollars are missing. All of it was not necessarily theft, but some of it was theft.”

Jubera also said members of SCAA were consulted in each step of the process, including the negotiated plea deal. The prosecutor added that his priority is to get the funds turned over to SCAA as soon as possible.

Jubera testified during Thursday’s plea agreement that the State was prepared to offer testimony from members of SCAA’s board concerning Smith’s embezzlement from January, 2015, to Dec. 31st, 2018.

“They would testify that in the course of conducting basically what would amount to an audit, did uncover fraudulent transactions over that course of time did amount to the amount of $33,000 approximately,” Jubera told Judge Jimmy McClure.

Judge McClure approved the plea agreement and continued the matter until June 9.

SCAA is a donor-supported, non-profit organization founded in November 2014 that works to provide food, shelter, veterinary care, spay/neutering, and ultimately permanent homes primarily for dogs captured by Water Valley’s animal control.

Jubera told the Herald that the non-profit’s board now has strong management in place.

“SCAA’s board is in good shape with good management, they are good stewards of whatever they receive,” he added.

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