INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Investigators have charged 15 public officials from across Indiana with the misappropriation of more than $1 million.
Five of those people face federal charges. The other 10 face state charges.
The Indiana State Board of Accounts said the officials caused more than $1 million in losses for the state. Operation Public Accountability resulted in charges for city and county employees, fire department officials and school employees.
Greenwood Community Schools is a typical district. Like all districts, there is always financial need. But unlike most districts, one of their own is facing federal charges for allegedly stealing from the middle school.
“It’s frustrating because she’s stealing from the kids and she’s stealing from other people like us; you and I. It’s not right,” said Greenwood taxpayer Mike Spears.
Federal prosecutors charged the middle school’s extracurricular activities treasurer, Kellie Cline, with stealing and misapplying more than $58,000. Authorities said they believe she used the money for her own personal expenditures.
“Anyone that steals, especially from the school district, they ought to prosecute them to the fullest,” Spears said.
That’s the message U.S. Attorney Josh Minkler wanted to get out with Operation Public Accountability. During a news conference Thursday morning, Minkler, with state and federal authorities standing behind him, announced the charges.
“When someone in the public service or in a governmental position abuses that trust, there must be consequences and those consequences must be clear,” Minkler said.
The thefts span four years, according to Minkler, and charges came after special audits from the State Board of Accounts. The 15 cases are not connected, and the amounts taken range from about $1,300 to $400,000.
“A lot of these individuals thought if they just took a little amount at a time over a long period of time that the thefts would go unnoticed or that nobody would care,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Tiffany Preston said.
With 15 indictments. authorities said they are sending a message they do care.
Residents have a message of their own.
Spears said, “Hang them. Prosecute them. If you’re going to steal, go to jail.”
Authorities said they believe they will recover all of the money through forfeiture and restitution.
“Public officials work for the people not the other way around,” Minkler said. “When the trust we give them is shattered and public officials line their pockets with taxpayer dollars, they should expect the scrutiny of state and federal law enforcement. All citizens deserve better from their public officials and this office intends to hold them accountable.”
Facing federal charges in the case:
- Kellie Cline, extracurricular activity treasurer at Greenwood Middle School. Investigators said they believe she stole $50,000 from the school’s extracurricular account
- Sami Dillon, clerk-treasurer of Cayuga in Vermillion County. Investigators said Dillon stole $44,000 by not depositing utility receipts.
- Clint Madden, Wayne Township Trustee and the Jonesville Volunteer Rural Fire Department Treasurer in Bartholomew County. Investigators said they believe he misappropriated more than $100,000.
- Mathew Mathis, treasurer of the Hope Volunteer Fire Department in Bartholomew County. Officials said he stole more than $48,000 from the fire department.
- Norman Burgess, treasurer of the Wayne Township Fire Department in Hamilton County. Investigators said they believe he stole $140,000 from the fire department.
Facing state charges:
- Angela White, extracurricular activity treasurer for Robey Elementary School in Marion County. The Marion County Prosecutor’s Office said it believes she stole $10,000 from the school.
- Rachel Bentz, jail matron for the Jay County Sheriff’s Office. The Jay County Prosecutor’s Office said she stole $9,000 by not depositing inmate trustee receipts.
- Dallas Davis, clerk-treasurer for Russelville. The Putnam County Prosecutor’s Office said Davis stole $7,600 by not properly depositing utility receipts.
- David Buzzard, trustee for Rock Creek Township in Bartholomew County. He is accused of overpaying himself and his spouse by $27,000.
- Jacqueline Fitzgerald and Monica Durrett, workers at the Indianapolis Public Bond Bank. They are accused of stealing $400,000.
- Nicole DeMunck, AK Smith Center treasurer for the Michigan City School System. The LaPorte County Prosecutor’s Office said she stole $13,000.
- Nichole Lowry, emergency medical services director for Pulaski County. She is accused of stealing more than $12,000 in training funds.
- Cheryl Pruitt, former superintendent for Gary Schools. She is accused of stealing more than $1,200 in reimbursement funds that she never spent.
- Donald Minnick, Owen County commissioner. He has already been found guilty of improperly selling a vehicle to the county at a loss of $7,500.
“These cases address core local government functions that impact the quality of life for residents of these communities — from public safety to after school activities to utility services — and erode public confidence in those trusted with public funds,” said Grant Mendenhall, special agent in charge for the FBI’s Indianapolis division. “These charges also demonstrate the strength of collaboration with our federal, state and local partners to mitigate the problem of corrupt officials across the state and the impact their greed has on their communities.”