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Rachel Duncan, a former employee at the S.C. Hospitality Association, has pleaded guilty to wire fraud and tax evasion related to $500,000 that was stolen from the trade group between 2006-2012.

Federal prosecutors say that Duncan stole the cash from the association and used it for online gambling – confirming reports that were first published on FITS. Original estimates were that “as much as $900,000” had been embezzled from the group – which represents businesses affiliated with the state’s tourism industry.

Rachel Duncan

Duncan’s case has garnered intense interest due to the fatal fallout it appears to have spawned.

Hospitality Association executive director Tom Sponseller – a prominent figure at the S.C. State House for years – was found dead of an apparent suicide in February of this year. A suicide note uncovered days after his death revealed his embarrassment at having failed to detect the embezzlement.

This official version of events is up for discussion, however.

One reason? The incompetence of the Columbia (S.C.) Police Department – which took ten days to find Sponseller’s body (and the suicide letter) despite conducting multiple searches of the parking garage and office where the body (and the note) were eventually found.

Developing …