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Carolyn “Bunny” Welsh was one of President Donald Trump’s most enthusiastic supporters right from the start. A former sheriff in Chester County, Pennsylvania, her loyalty was rewarded with visits to the White House, a speaking slot at a Trump rally, and a literal seat next to the commander in chief.
But like many of Trump’s closest associates over the last four years, Welsh now finds herself in legal trouble: She’s been charged with misusing taxpayer money and benefiting from private charity donations to the county’s K-9 dog unit.
The 76-year-old former law enforcement official allegedly used taxpayer dollars to pay members of the Chester County Sheriff’s Department to do volunteer work to raise money for the K-9 unit during business hours, according to Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro. Her boyfriend, retired sheriff’s lieutenant Harry McKinney, allegedly used a portion of donations to the charity to pay for personal expenses.
A criminal complaint provided to VICE News accuses McKinney of spending the money on his personal pet, including grooming and medical expenses.
“Bunny Welsh used her position of power for her and her partner Harry McKinney’s own personal gain instead of serving her community as she was elected to do,” Shapiro told VICE News. “This blatant misappropriation of funds is unacceptable.”
Both Welsh and McKinney have been charged with theft of services and “theft by unlawful taking,” according to the criminal complaint.
For two decades, Welsh served as Chester County’s first female sheriff after she was elected in 2000.
Trump’s affinity for Welsh began early on in his foray into politics. In 2016, she traveled around Pennsylvania to support him, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Trump won the swing state that November.
Less than a month into his presidency, Welsh was among 10 sheriffs from across the country Trump hosted for an open discussion touching on issues like drug trafficking, the opioid crisis, and terrorism, according to the Inquirer. She was seated next to the president.
Welsh visited the White House again in January 2019 for a border security roundtable, where the president acknowledged the now-disgraced sheriff’s loyalty.
“Bunny, you've been a friend of mine for a long time,” Trump said, according to a transcript of the roundtable from C-SPAN. “Right from the beginning, and I appreciate it.”
Welsh’s tenure as sheriff came to a close last November when she decided not to run for reelection. She was succeeded by a lawyer and former state trooper, Democrat Fredda Maddox, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.