Former Lake Tahoe Humane Society executive director charged with embezzlement
More than a year after the Lake Tahoe Humane Society ousted its former director over allegations of embezzlement, the El Dorado District Attorney has officially filed charges.
The El Dorado County District Attorney charged Nicola (Niki) Congero with embezzlement from employer, a felony, stemming from her tenure as executive director of the nonprofit, which is based in South Lake Tahoe.
The previous board of directors cut ties with Congero after learning that “certain potential irregularities may have occurred concerning our financial status” in March 2017, the organization told the Tribune in a statement following Congero’s firing. The former board never identified a dollar amount related to the alleged crime.
Shortly after that spat became public, Congero’s attorney at the time, Adam Spicer, told the Tribune he was confident the allegations would be proven false.
” … We are very confident that the facts are clear here that the board just really mismanaged the money, and we are looking forward to vindicating her.”
It is unclear if Spicer is still representing Congero. A message was left at this office Tuesday afternoon.
Social media posts by Congero indicate she no longer lives in the Tahoe Basin. Some posts are geotagged in Knoxville, Tennessee. Others stated that she was traveling around the country in an RV with her husband after leaving Tahoe due to an inability to find affordable housing.
The complaint filed by the DA on July 27 alleges the criminal activity continued from roughly March 1, 2014 to April 1, 2017.
The Tribune has reached out to the DA’s office with additional questions.
The Lake Tahoe Humane Society has seen instability and change since the allegations became public.
Nearly a year after Congero was fired, the organization announced it was largely shutting down for “restructuring.”
In an effort to restore faith in the community, the organization instituted a new board of directors with an emphasis on transparency about a month after the restructuring announcement.
In June the nonprofit put its property on Emerald Bay Road up for sale. The decision was made with the hope of bringing stability to the organization while paying money owed to local veterinarians and others.
Following news of the charge, Lake Tahoe Humane Society issued a statement supporting local law enforcement while remaining hopeful for a resolution to the matter.
“We are confident that justice will be served to the fullest extent of the law. The impact that the alleged embezzlement has had on our community and the organization was heartbreaking and unfathomable, but, we stand united and aligned as a community and are encouraged that we can restore the Humane Society to good standing.”
The statement also affirmed the new board’s commitment to transparency.
“We aim to be very transparent with this beloved community and stay focused on building something remarkable for the welfare of our animals for generations to come.”
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include a statement from the Lake Tahoe Humane Society, which has since revised its original statement to say “alleged embezzlement.” Additional updates will be posted.
All people charged in criminal matters are innocent until proven guilty.