Former SC Hospitality Association worker pleads guilty

Rachel Duncan pleaded guilty to embezzlement and mail fraud.

COLUMBIA (WACH, AP) - A former employee of the South Carolina Hospitality Association who admitted she embezzled nearly $500,000 from the group pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday.

Rachel Duncan pled guilty to embezzlement and mail fraud. "We're going to withhold comment for the time being," said Duncan's attorney Greg Harris.

Bond has been set at $25,000.

Prosecutors said they found sexually-oriented photos on Tom Sponseller's computer showing him with Duncan. But prosecutors said there is no indication he received any of the $480,000.

She faces up to 23 years in prison and $350,000 in fines. Sentencing is expected in June.

Prosecutors say the former accounting director took money from the group from 2006 until this year and used much of it for online gambling.

"The Sponseller matter was an issue of high public interest, otherwise this is a routine embezzlement case," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Winston Holliday.

Sponseller led the association for decades before killing himself in February. Police say Sponseller left a suicide note in which he detailed his despair over Duncan's apparent misdeeds, saying he was despondent they happened on his watch.

To view a detailed timeline documenting the Sponseller disappearance and Duncan case click here.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)