Sanford police are investigating the embezzlement of more than $132,000 from the Temple Theatre, the Rant has learned.

An incident report obtained by the Rant dated Jan. 13 indicates that Peggy Taphorn, the theater’s artistic director, reported that someone had taken $132,378.12 by “fraudulently making personal transactions without approval from (the) business” and that the case would “require further investigation.” The missing money was “last known secure” on Feb. 1, 2017, according to the report. Police confirmed that a “report was filed” and “is currently under investigation by our department.”

“Three weeks ago, some significant accounting irregularities at the Temple Theatre Company were identified. Within 24 hours, we notified the Sanford Police Department,” Chris deLambert, director of business development for the Temple, said in a statement. “Because the SPD investigation is still ongoing, we cannot make any further statement at this time.”

The historic theater went up in 1925 and operated until the 1960s in a variety of capacities before shutting down. It reopened in 1985 as a nonprofit professional theater hosting multiple productions per year, as well as a variety of education opportunities for young people.

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Today it is widely regarded as Sanford and Lee County’s top tourist attraction. The organization does receive a small amount of taxpayer funding from both the city of Sanford ($18,000 in the current fiscal year) and Lee County ($5,000) but relies on ticket sales and a robust fundraising operation for the remainder of its budget. Its current show, “The Odd Couple,” runs through Feb. 18.

The incident marks the second case of embezzlement from a downtown nonprofit in as many years. In August, the affordable housing nonprofit which owns the Wilrik Hotel, the Sanford Affordable Housing Development Corporation, reported that someone had made $100,000 in unauthorized charges against the organization. Police at the time said they’d referred the case to the State Bureau of Investigation. It is possible that the Temple case may also involve the SBI.

 

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