Sponseller's suicide note "When she confessed to me, I was shocked"

Tom Sponseller and Rachel Duncan stand together during the production of a commercial for Carolina Care Plan.
Tom Sponseller and Rachel Duncan stand together during the production of a commercial for Carolina Care Plan.

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A suicide note written by Tom Sponseller, confirms that the former South Carolina Hospitality Association CEO knew about the hundreds of thousands of dollars missing from his lobbying group and that Rachel Duncan admitted to him that she used the embezzled money for online gambling.

SCHA co-workers found the three page note, which describes Rachel Duncan's confession to Sponseller, in a locked desk drawer inside the CEO's office several days after he went missing. WIS obtained the note on February 28, but decided to keep most of it confidential until today.

Duncan served as the association's director of accounting and membership, but is no longer employed with the SCHA.

"On February 16, Rachel confessed to me that she had been taking money for online gambling," Sponseller wrote. He then indicated Duncan told him that she had been visited by the Columbia Police Department and the IRS investigating significant money transfers from her checking account to offshore accounts.

"When I asked her how much she said upwards of $300,000 had been taken over the past 4 or 5 years," Sponseller continued.

Federal court documents show that Rachel Duncan has agreed with prosecutors to plead guilty to wire fraud and tax evasion. She has admitted to embezzling nearly $500,000 from the association.

"In her early years I would check bank statements and reconciliations to be sure things were right," wrote Sponseller. "At that time, nothing was questionable and things looked good."

He said Duncan's actions surprised him and that the two had built up a friendship over the years. After a while, however, Sponseller said he stopped following up on her work.

"When she confessed to me I was shocked as I would never have suspected it of her," wrote Sponseller.

The note indicates that Sponseller took much of the responsibility of the missing money on his shoulders.

"It is quite disappointing that all the work our members and staff put into building one of the best associations in the state has been jeopardized by the stupid actions of one person," wrote Sponseller. "After working so hard to build the association over the past 21 1/2 years, I am ashamed that I let this happen under my watch."

He said Duncan told him that she planned to cooperate with the authorities in order to try to minimize her jail time. "She has led me to believe there might be a chance to recover some of the gambling funds from the online casinos where she played," Sponseller wrote.

Court document show Duncan is scheduled to plead guilty sometime next week.

"I'm sorry it ended like this," Sponseller concluded. "Please find a way to forgive me in your hearts."

Sponseller's body was found 10 days after he was reported missing in a double-locked room under the SCHA offices on Lady St. Authorities later determined that he shot himself in the head.

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