Midlands SC man pleads guilty to stealing $800,000 from nonprofit for substance abuse

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A 71-year-old Sumter man pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court to wire fraud charges for defrauding his employer, an addiction services nonprofit, of more than $800,000.

Between 2013 and 2020, Rodney Ellis used his position as financial officer to embezzle money from Sumter Behavioral Health Services, the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office said.

According to documents filed in federal court, Ellis’ job gave him access to the nonprofit’s Wells Fargo account. On at least three occasions, he wired money from his employer to his own account at the South State Bank, investigators found.

Ellis faces up to 20 years and prison and may have to pay restitution up to $250,000.

Formerly known as the Sumter Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, Sumter Behavioral Health Services is a 501c3 nonprofit. The organization is contracted by Sumter County to provide services for individuals who struggle with substance abuse.

“Behavioral health organizations depend on every dollar allocated to treat those seeking help for their substance abuse challenges,” FBI Columbia Special Agent in Charge, Susan Ferensic, said in a statement. “It is inexcusable for someone with a high-ranking position, like Ellis, to steal the organization’s funds for personal benefit.”

Ellis is currently released on $25,000 bond pending sentencing.