Cape Girardeau Cape Girardeau dog rescue treasurer accused of $120K theft

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Cape Girardeau resident Elizabeth Hann, 40, is wanted on two counts of felony stealing after allegedly embezzling more than $120,000 from Mac's Mission not-for-profit group between November 2016 and September 2017, according to a news release from the Cape Girardeau Police Department.

Officers are seeking the public's assistance in locating Hann, who formerly served as treasurer for Mac's Mission, a not-for-profit organization and state licensed rescue group specializing in animals with special needs, according to the release.

Anyone with information on Hann's whereabouts is asked to contact the Cape Girardeau Police Department at (573) 335-6621 (business line), (573) 339-6313 (anonymous tip line), text "CAPEPD" to 847411 or email police@cityofcape.org.

Online court documents show a warrant was issued July 24, cash bond of $50,000, with the condition the defendant may not leave the state of Missouri.

Rochelle Steffen, Mac's Mission director and Mac the pitbull's owner, said they discovered the theft in October and have been cooperating with police in the investigation.

According to the probable cause statement, Hann is accused of conducting 89 unauthorized withdrawals, totaling approximately $121,000, from Mac's Mission Charity Foundation's bank account between Nov. 9, 2016, and Sept. 23, 2017.

According to the statement, Hann's fellow charity workers stated Hann regularly attended both the Isle of Capri Casino in Cape Girardeau and the Hollywood Casino in St. Charles, Missouri.

Once they discovered the crime, she said, they implemented checks and balances, including hiring an accountant and adding security measures, to ensure this won't happen again.

That the theft occurred was a betrayal, Steffen said.

"She was like a sister to me," she said of Hann. "I had so much trust in her."

Mac's Mission is a grassroots, donation-based mission aimed at helping special-needs animals -- mostly dogs, she said, but they've helped other animals too, including rabbits and even chickens.

That means expenses, Steffen said. Animals with cleft palates need to be tube-fed. Animals hit by cars or rescued from a hoarding situation need surgery and other veterinary care. Some cases require specialists, meaning trips to St. Louis and the veterinary school at the University of Missouri in Columbia.

"He deserves that chance," she said of the rescue dogs.

That's another reason the theft hit so hard, Steffen said.

"We could have saved so many others," she said.

Mac's Mission bought property two years ago, she said, with the intent of building a facility to shelter and foster more animals.

"We were given a quote of $175,000, at the time," Steffen said. "We could be saving dozens more."

As it is, the group is fostering about 30 dogs right now.

"We have to be selective," she said, and if a dog isn't selected, it will die.

"It's a real emotional roller coaster," Steffen said, between saving an animal's life and having to turn away a heart-rending case because they simply don't have the resources.

"It takes a team," Steffen said.

The group has a 10-member board, she said, and a network of volunteers who do everything from social media upkeep to fostering animals.

Mac the Pitbull's Facebook page has more than half a million followers and likes, and, Steffen said, dedicated volunteers work to maintain a positive, profanity-free page where people can go to look at dogs and make friends with each other.

"It's a family," she said. "I think a lot of us relate with the dogs. We all have our damage. And I think a lot of our followers respond to our honesty and transparency."

Added Steffen, "We're all invested emotionally."

Acting treasurer Requi Salter said she's been with the organization from the beginning, and wanted to step up and be a treasurer the organization could trust.

The arrest warrant was issued Tuesday, Steffen said, "but we've been living this for 10 months."

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