Federal officials probing S.C. Hospitality group funds

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COLUMBIA — Federal authorities said Monday they are investigating several hundred thousand dollars missing from the group that lobbies for South Carolina’s tourism industry, as police search for the association’s missing chief executive. U.S. Secret Service special agent in charge Michael Williams said agents began looking into the South Carolina Hospitality Association’s finances several months ago. The group lobbies for the state’s $14 billion tourism industry.

Agents are combing the association’s books as the search for Tom Sponseller, its president and chief executive, stretches into a second week. He was last seen Feb. 18 at his office in Columbia.

Police have searched his office building and sedan and reviewed cellphone and bank records, but so far investigators have no clues on the 61-year-old’s whereabouts. Williams said that while Sponseller is not a target of his investigation, another association employee is.

He said agents are investigating Rachel Duncan, who has served as the group’s finance director. He would not give details on how or when agents began investigating Duncan, saying only that it had been going on for several months.

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