MANKATO — The former leaders of a Mankato animal rescue organization are facing felony charges after an independent auditor allegedly found they stole over $40,000 from the charity.

Tamara Laneil Scherer, 39, and Darren Carl Scherer, 38, both of Mankato, were charged with four counts of felony theft Friday in Blue Earth County District Court.

The Scherers were founders of Mending Spirits Animal Rescue, an all-volunteer Mankato-based organization that finds homes for stray and surrendered animals. Tamara was president and Darren was treasurer until early 2016 when other leaders of the charity allegedly discovered evidence they were using the organization's funds for personal gain.

A new treasurer was elected and found over $50,000 in suspected fraudulent expenditures, the criminal complaint alleges. The Scherers gave nearly $13,000 back to the organization before its remaining board members contacted police last year.

A Mankato police investigator obtained a search warrant for the charity's financial records and turned them over to a Mankato accounting firm for an independent audit.

The auditor allegedly found over $42,000 in transactions that appeared to benefit the Scherers personally, including over $1,000 for concert tickets, between January 2014 and February 2016.

The new leaders of Mending Spirits filed a civil lawsuit against the Scherers last year. The lawsuit was settled out of court and the terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

New board president Kristy Olson said at the time that the organization was rebuilding and new accounting safeguards had been put into place.

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