On the eve of what could be the biggest day in S.C. Education Lottery history, an arrest was made after a quick investigation by the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division into a discrepancy found at the SCEL in early October.
“Appropriate actions have been taken and the accounting discrepancies have been resolved,” said Paula Harper Bethea, SCEL’s executive director in a release sent out Tuesday. “Anthony McNeil, accountant/fiscal analyst III, who was terminated from SCEL on Oct. 10, was arrested today in connection with the accounting discrepancies. According to our records and SLED’s investigation, McNeil embezzled over $200,000 over a period of about two years. The instances were sporadic.”
Bethea elaborated to the Aiken Standard on Wednesday, explaining the details of what was found to be a criminal act spread out over two years.
“I discovered the discrepancy on Oct. 5, placed the employee on administrative leave the next day and, by Oct. 9, I had SLED involved,” Bethea said. “It was a longtime employee. You don’t expect it, but you’re always mindful of this.”
According to the arrest warrant affidavit, McNeil was in a position with SCEL to collect payments owed from retailers. Over a two-year span he stole more than $200,000, leading to his federal embezzlement charge, officials said.
“McNeil accomplished this by the manipulation and altering of invoices to retailer partners of the South Carolina Education Lottery,” the affidavit stated.
McNeil is alleged to have overcharged some retailers and collected less from others. He would then contact targeted retailers and advise them their payments were not collected and that they needed to deposit additional funds into an account – an account set up by McNeil that would end up generating $226,439, reports stated.
Bethea stressed that the retailers affected, of which there was about a handful, were compensated within about two weeks.
“We have paid every single retailer, so we are the victims now,” Bethea said.
She was also quick to stress that at no time were the games or players affected.
“All SCEL games, players and prizes were at all times protected,” Bethea said. “Although the tightest internal controls were in place, McNeil was intent and found a way to circumvent the procedures. Because of this incident, even more stringent additional monitoring procedures are now in place.
“The people of South Carolina and our lottery players can know that at no time was the integrity or the security of the central gaming system or any of our games affected,” Bethea said. “Once we identified what occurred, we immediately began an internal investigation with our internal auditor. Within eight hours, this matter was turned over to SLED for a full investigation. We will prosecute to the full extent of the law, and we will seek restitution.”