COURTESY LUCRETIA SKAGGS
An animal rescue worker who once helped save dozens of cats from a dead Ku Klux Klan leader's reeking house
is wanted on charges of theft and fraud, accused of embezzling more than $151,000 from an animal shelter.
Lucretia Skaggs, 53, was the treasurer for the Farmington Pet Adoption Center until October when the nonprofit's board released her, according to a probable cause statement. In November, the center contacted St. Francois County Sheriff's Office with allegations that Skaggs had been stealing for years.
The ensuing investigation turned up unauthorized credit card purchases, a sketchy PayPal account and payroll records for four mysterious employees who told a sheriff's deputy they worked only at Skaggs' house, authorities say.
The St. Francois County prosecutor filed a criminal complaint on Tuesday, listing felony charges of theft of more than $25,000 and fraudulent use of a credit device.
PHOTO BY DOYLE MURPHY
Top: Frank and Malissa Ancona lived with dozens of cats in their home in Leadwood, Missouri.
In a pair of phone interviews this morning with the RFT
, Skaggs said she planned to turn herself in today and post bond. She denied all the allegations and said she would fight them in court.
"I don't run from controversy," she says. "I've dealt with it for many years."
She declined to go into specifics of the case but said the charges were "trumped up" by rivals within the organization. (An employee at the center told the RFT
the organization had no comment about Skaggs.)
"I worked within the explicit and implicit authority bestowed on me as board treasurer to carry out the mission of the Farmington Pet Adoption Center," Skaggs says. "Every penny spent was to that end."
Skaggs was previously accused of some shady business at the center. In 2013, the local Daily Journal
newspaper wrote a series of articles
following a state Department of Agriculture investigation into accusations that Skaggs had used a veterinarian's account with the drugmaker Pfizer to order supplies without the vet's knowledge. State investigators later said
they were able to confirm the allegations.
On this phone this morning, Skaggs says "nothing" came of the findings and she continued to work for the center.
In February 2017, the longtime animal rescuer was part of a small team of volunteers who responded to the home of Frank and Malissa Ancona in the small town of Leadwood, Missouri. Frank Ancona, the imperial wizard of the Traditionalist Knights of the KKK, had been shot to death and dumped in a river in Washington County. His wife and stepson, Paul Jinkerson Jr., were charged with the murder.
With Frank dead and his wife in jail, the house and dozens of Malissa's hoarded cats were left unattended. The RFT published a cover story on the killing in March 2017
, and we interviewed Skaggs as part of the reporting.
Skaggs, who also co-founded the Midwest Community Cat Alliance, was well aware of Malissa Ancona, who presented herself as a fellow rescue worker, operating her own center out of her home. But Skaggs had come to view her as a hoarder.
"We’ve always known we would have to go to that house and do a major rescue," Skaggs told us in 2017. "We’ve known that for years. We had no inkling of how that would come about. This shocked all of us."
Now, Skaggs will be arraigned in the same courthouse, in front of the same judge, as Malissa Ancona. She insists she has done nothing wrong.
"All I've ever, for fifteen years, I've devoted myself to saving these animals," she says. "And to have this happen is devastating, because that's my passion, my life's work, and that's going to come to an end."
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