Miss Florida Scholarship Director Allegedly Stole $100K from Program to Pay for Shopping Sprees, Dating Sites

Mary Wickersham, 76, resigned her volunteer position in 2018, after which the scholarship program's board discovered the financial irregularities in its accounts

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As executive director of the Miss Florida Scholarship Program, Mary Wickersham cajoled donors and oversaw a not-for-profit organization that funded scholarships for young women who competed in pageants.

But when she needed money to support her own lifestyle, according to prosecutors, she stole it.

Between December 2011 and June 2018, Wickersham, 76, spent at least $100,000 that belonged to the nonprofit and other charities to cover her personal expenses for shopping, home goods, maid cleaning services, dining out, online dating fees and other costs, prosecutors allege.

Wickersham — also known as Mary Sullivan and Mary Harvey — was arrested Tuesday on seven counts of wire fraud, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) said in a news release.

An attorney for Wickersham, Adam Goble Franzen, did not immediately return a call from PEOPLE for comment. Court records indicate Wickersham is due to face a judge on Monday.

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She allegedly began diverting funds from the Miss Florida organization in December 2011, after she "formed a scam Florida corporation named Miss Florida LLC without the knowledge of the Miss Florida Scholarship Program Board of Directors," reports FDLE. "She then used the scam corporation to open a bank account that only she could access."

According to federal prosecutors, Wickersham solicited donations on behalf of the Miss Florida organization, but rather than deposit them into the organization's legitimate bank account, she altered donor checks and deposited money into her "Miss Florida" account at Bank of America.

A seven-count federal indictment charges her with defrauding corporate and individual program donors that include the Children's Miracle Network and the Everglades Foundation. "The investigation found that Wickersham added the words 'Miss Florida Pageant' on donation checks made payable to Children's Miracle Network allowing her to deposit funds into the scam account," FDLE said.

The role that Wickersham filled with the Miss Florida organization was a volunteer position, but gave her access to the program's financial information as well as its sponsors and donors.

Financial irregularities in the organization's accounts were discovered by the scholarship program's board following Wickersham's July 2018 resignation, the organization said in a statement.

"While we cannot comment in detail upon the current proceedings, rest assured that the legal action involves only Ms. Wickersham and in no way implicates any current member of the board of directors," the organization's statement said.

"The current board of directors is acting in concert with the appropriate legal authorities and with the national Miss America program with regard to this matter," it added. "We are in a strong fiscal position and are experiencing growing success in raising scholarship funds."

At its 2021 pageant, according to The Ledger, the organization awarded $18,000 to the winning Miss Florida, $7,000 to the first runner-up, $6,000 to the second runner-up, $5,000 to the third runner-up, and $3,000 to the fourth runner-up.

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