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BELLE CHASSE, La. The Plaquemines Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) shelter director was arrested for the theft of over $22,000 in cash proceeds from the animal safe haven in Belle Chasse, according to the Plaquemines Parish Sheriff's Office.

On June 9, board members became aware that Denise McCoy Manger, 40, could possibly be stealing cash payments from pet adoptions, which were not always turned in for deposit.

A search of PAWS' computer database that tracked adoptions confirmed the beliefs, and a review of payments made to PAWS during a two-week period of June 2013 revealed that the cash deposits by Manger did not match submitted records, deputies said.

On June 13, PAWS board members contacted PPSO about internal theft from the non-profit. Since January 1, at least $22,075 in cash proceeds for adoptions were unaccounted for, PPSO said.

An investigation revealed that Manger was the only person who had access to the cash from April 2012 until June 2013.

PPSO, with the assistance of the board members, then conducted an undercover investigation into the matter.

On Sunday, two undercover detectives adopted two dogs from the shelter and paid $260 in previously recorded currency. After the adoption was complete, the cash was placed into safekeeping for future deposit by Manger, who was not present for the adoption, according to PPSO.

Later in the day, Manger was observed briefly going to the shelter while it was closed and removing the cash from safekeeping. She then traveled to a Belle Chasse business and used some of the cash to purchase merchandise. After the transaction, investigators recovered one of the previously recorded notes, PPSO said.

On Monday, Manger submitted the cash proceeds for Friday through Monday to PAWS board members, deputies said. The deposit was short $575 and did not include any of the previously recorded money used during the undercover operation, the sheriff's office said.

When Manger was confronted by the board members, she confessed that she had taken an unknown amount of money from PAWS.

Deputies brought Manger in for further investigation, which is when she admitted that she had been stealing the adoption money, as well as donations, to support a prescription drug addiction.She said she could not provide a total amount that she had stolen since it had been occurring for a long period of time, PPSO said.

She was arrested for theft over $1,500 and was held without bond in the Belle Chasse Lockup. She was scheduled for a hearing on Tuesday afternoon.

PPSO believed that Manger acted alone.

Investigators and PAWS members continued to work together to determine the actual amount of money lost. They suspect missing proceeds from 2013 alone to be nearly $40,000, which includes donations.

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