Times Staff Reporter
A former Brazil Clerk-Treasurer appeared in court Monday to be formally charged with allegations of mismanagement of public funds.
Tracy Webster, 43, Brazil, appeared before Clay Superior Court Judge Blaine Akers to be formally charged with one class C felony Forgery and three charges of class D felony Theft.
On Monday, Webster, who will be hiring her own attorney, entered a not guilty plea.
Akers set a tentative jury trial for June 6.
Webster remains out on bond while awaiting further court proceedings.
Webster served as Clerk-Treasurer from August 2004-December 2007, then as Deputy Clerk until December 2008.
According to the probable cause affidavit on file at the Clay County Courthouse, the investigation began July 27, 2010, when an auditor with the Indiana State Board of Accounts noticed inconsistencies totaling more than $9,000 during an annual audit of the City of Brazil. Believing the audit showed signs of criminal intent, the Indiana State Police were contacted.
According to the probable cause affidavit, by Aug. 5, the auditor found and presented officials with inconsistencies totaling $11,036.60, divided into six transactions involving a vendor known as TriStar and sections labeled Payroll, Handwritten Checks and others under vendor listing, miscellaneous and prior report.
According to the report, the TriStar vendor account, which no one currently employed at Brazil City Hall was able to identify who or what the business was or its relevance to the city, had no address, contact number or person provided in the information. Officials were initially unable to locate the business.
However, the report stated it appeared the vendor number was originally set up in Webster's name and then later changed in an effort to disguise unauthorized or illegitimate transactions in the account.
The report stated officials confirmed a total of eight checks were printed under he vendor TriStar and they were all payable to Tracy Webster.
Three of the checks were determined as potentially being legitimate and the SBOA decided not to pursue those transactions.
The probable cause affidavit also stated the TriStar account had been inactive until Nov. 9, 2009. At that time, the system shows that (current Brazil City Clerk-Treasurer Karen McQueen) changed the account to active.
According to the report, in the Payroll section, Webster allegedly issued to herself and cashed two payroll checks in addition to receiving direct deposits from the same account on April 8 and June 6, 2008. While the city records indicate both direct deposits were credited back, bank records do not reflect this. Bank records allegedly show that the checks were cashed and deposited into her personal account.
In regard to the Handwritten Checks section, the probable cause affidavit stated three handwritten checks were provided by SBOA to investigators, including:
* One check made out to MCC (Menard's Check Collection) for $1,130.92 (Aug. 7, 2007),
* A second one made out to Visa for $4,809.21 (Jan. 9, 2007). Officials confirmed the Visa check was not used to credit the City of Brazil's only Visa card account. Attempts to trace the check back to the city or elsewhere after such a long period of time have been fruitless at this time due to bank records not being available. However, during the investigation, officials were provided legitimate reasons for each transaction on the card from Brazil City Police Department Assistant Chief Mark Loudermilk. and
* A third check made out to Sears for $871 (Jan. 2, 2007). This third transaction was later determined legitimate and the SBOA decided not to pursue it.
During the course of the investigation, the report stated officials believed the first check was used to pay a personal account.
The MCC check was allegedly used by Webster to cover a previously written bad check on a personal account, the report stated, to pay for items purchased at the Terre Haute store July 15, 2007. MCC officials provided information that Webster made arrangements to pay $200 a month toward the balance of the initial debt of $1,103. 42. MCC added a $27.50 fee for the bad check and then received the Brazil City check to pay the account in full Aug. 7.
Officials discussed the matter with Webster for the first time during a voluntary interview Sept. 21, 2010.
According to the report, officials allege Webster initially denied knowledge of the check made out to MCC, before admitting to using a personal check by accident from an account that had been closed.
As for the check made out to Visa, Webster said she did not have a personal card or had/has access to an account with the company of any kind.
According to the report, Webster alleged anyone could have logged onto the city computer, printed and stamped her name to cash the checks.
The report stated on Nov. 9, 2010, Webster agreed to a second interview at the Clay County Prosecutor's Office, citing what she felt was a lack of communication. Webster told investigators she had been receiving phone calls about some things from current city employees, claiming records were being destroyed and (people) were bragging (they) brought about the investigation and Webster had accepted $25,000 through unemployment benefits to keep her mouth shut.
Once again, Webster denied taking any money that she was not entitled to have.
In summary, the document reads, Webster said any money that she received was for vacation buy back, sick days buy back, insurance reimbursement or reimbursement for things she had bought for the city. According to the report, Webster said she didn't receive anything that she didn't think she was entitled to based on what she was told.
The case file, created by ISP investigators, was presented to the Clay County Prosecutor's Office Jan. 13, for further review.