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Judith W. Hanson, the former executive director of the NAACP’s Atlanta chapter, was in the Fulton County jail Tuesday on charges that she and an assistant embezzled $275,000 from the venerable civil rights organization.

The Rev. Amos  Brown, the new administrator of the chapter, said warrants were issued for Hanson and her former assistant, Saundra Douglass.

“Any malfeasance at whatever level is not tolerated by the NAACP,” Brown said. “But we do feel that this great organization should not be punished in the eyes of the public because of the actions of these two individuals.”

Chapter officials complained to Atlanta Police that an internal investigation of the chapter’s finances indicated the two women fraudulently applied for American Express Cards and wrote checks on the organization to pay for personal expenses ranging from expensive meals to dental work and college tuition for associates, according to a police report filed Oct. 10. The women allegedly covered up the payments by altering the organization’s books over a six-year period, the report said.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which broke the story of the theft in October, learned of the arrest from a source late Tuesday. An official with the local chapter confirmed that Hanson was arrested on charges of embezzling from the chapter and that police were still looking for Douglass. The official asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak for the organization.

Jail records show that the 67-year-old Hanson was arrested on Martin Luther King Jr. Day on charges of felony theft. Those charges were later upgraded to theft by deception, theft by conversion, credit card fraud and unauthorized use of a credit card, said Tracy Flanagan, spokeswoman for the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office. Hanson was awarded a bond on Tuesday, Flanagan said.

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