Gay Atlanta non-profit leader charged with stealing $56,000

The former longtime executive director of a gay Atlanta non-profit that cares for the pets of critically ill people was arrested and faces charges that he embezzled more than $56,000 from the beloved organization.

Kevin Bryant, 54, was arrested in Boiling Springs, S.C. – near Spartanburg – on Oct. 17 on a fugitive from justice warrant. The arrest came months after Bryant was indicted by a Fulton County grand jury. Bryant allegedly embezzled at least $56,206.05 from PALS over a two-year period, according to an incident report from the Atlanta Police Department.

Bryant was fired from PALS in January after the board discovered he was allegedly stealing from the organization. He allegedly stole the money by diverting funds from other pet rescue groups intended to pay PALS for bulk pet food the organization received from Rescue Bank Houston, according to the incident report.

PALS served as a hub for distributing donated food to 75 to 100 pet rescue groups across metro Atlanta. Rescue Bank Houston received the food from manufacturers and provided it to PALS for distribution. PALS only had to pay for shipping, which amounted to 10 cents per pound, according to police. PALS would in turn pass along the shipping costs to the other rescue groups.

In January, Rescue Bank Houston called PALS board chair David Lile to ask about $22,255.55 the organization was owed in shipping costs. Lile reached out to Bryant on Jan. 21 and the former executive director said "he would come in and straighten everything out." Bryant apparently fled to South Carolina where he stayed with family and PALS never heard from him again, Lile said.

An investigation by the PALS board showed that Bryant had pet rescue groups pay him in cash or checks made out to him for the shipping costs and then allegedly pocketed the money instead of turning it over to PALS, according to the incident report.

"In January, I got a phone call from Rescue Bank in Houston wanting to know why seven trucks had not been paid for. That's what prompted the investigation," Lile said.

An Atlanta police investigation showed that Bryant diverted at least $56,206 over two years. Bryant "spent the money on shopping and paying personal bills," according to the incident report. Bryant was paid $42,000 per year as executive director.

Atlanta police obtained an arrest warrant for Bryant on April 26 charging him with theft by taking while in a fiduciary capacity. Bryant was indicted on the felony charge May 9.

Lile had a suspicion that Bryant was living with family in South Carolina. So last week he called authorities in Spartanburg and told them about the outstanding arrest warrant for Bryant. He was booked into the Spartanburg County jail about 10 p.m. on Tuesday.

Bryant served as PALS executive director for 10 years until he was terminated in January. PALS has cared for the pets of the elderly and people living with critical illnesses and disabilities for 26 years and serves 175 to 200 pets per month.

Lile said PALS has since paid the outstanding bills to Rescue Bank and put in financial safeguards to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future. PALS hired a new executive director in March.

"We are as strong as ever. We have put additional procedures in place so this could never happen again. We are here to stay. We have a mission and we stay true to our mission," Lile said.

PALS hosts several charity events to raise funds – including some with bulging biceps and other with manly drag – and has been the beneficiary of a drag bingo event since January 1997. The event, once held monthly, is now a quarterly fundraiser with the next one set for Dec. 13.

On Nov. 11, the organization hosts the Manly Miss America 2017 All Stars at Jungle.

Photo via Spartanburg County Sheriff's Office