By Kevin Deutsch
The former executive director of the Miss Florida Scholarship Program was arrested in Miami Tuesday for defrauding corporate and individual program donors, including the Children’s Miracle Network and the Everglades Foundation, authorities said.
Mary Wickersham, 76, of Miami, also known as Mary Sullivan and Mary Harvey, allegedly used her position at the Miss Florida Scholarship Program, a not-for-profit organization that raises money to provide scholarships to young women through pageants, to steal at least $100,000 in donations.
She turned herself in at the Miami Federal Detention Center Tuesday and faces seven counts of wire fraud, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
“Ms. Wickersham not only stole charitable donations from the Scholarship Program but also from two local charitable organizations and a local business affiliated with Miss Florida,” said FDLE Miami Special Agent in Charge Troy Walker, whose office investigated the case. “Agents believe the scam occurred over several years.”
Authorities said that Wickersham performed her executive director duties on a volunteer basis, approaching individuals and urging them to make donations toward good causes.
FDLE said their agents began investigating her after receiving information from the Miss Florida Scholarship Program about missing funds.
According to FDLE, Wickersham formed a “scam” Florida corporation named Miss Florida LLC in 2011, without the knowledge of the Miss Florida Scholarship Program Board of Directors.
She then used the scam corporation to open a bank account only she could access, authorities said. Prosecutors allege that she deposited some donations into the scam account and used the funds for her personal benefit.
The FDLE investigation also found Wickersham added the words “Miss Florida Pageant” to donation checks made payable to Children’s Miracle Network, allowing her to deposit funds into the scam account.
She allegedly used the stolen money to pay for her utilities, shopping, home goods, maid cleaning service, online dating fees, and dining out, according to federal prosecutors.
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