Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Bellevue clerk charged with embezzlement

City makes no announcement of Loughmiller charge


By TERRY SMITH
Express Staff Writer

A former city clerk who represented Bellevue at water quality competitions in Boise and Washington, D.C. has now been charged with embezzling almost $14,000 from city coffers.

Lacey Ann Loughmiller, 29, who was an administrative clerk for the city's water and sewer department, was arraigned in Blaine County 5th District Court on Monday on a felony charge of grand theft by embezzlement. Loughmiller allegedly embezzled money from utility payments and kept false records to hide the theft.

A probable cause affidavit filed by Bellevue Marshal Ron Taylor alleges that Loughmiller embezzled $13,880.

Loughmiller was first charged with the crime in October 2008. Neither the city of Bellevue nor the Bellevue Marshal's Office made any prior announcements about Loughmiller's being investigated or charged.

According to Bellevue Marshall Ron Taylor, Loughmiller no longer works for the city of Bellevue.

Loughmiller resigned from her city post in February 2008, according to Bellevue City Clerk Dee Barton.

Taylor said the case was not earlier announced to the news media because the investigation was still underway even after Loughmiller was charged.

Bellevue Mayor Jon Anderson did not return a telephone call seeking an explanation for the delay by press deadline Tuesday. Personnel at Bellevue City Hall referred inquiries to the Blaine County Prosecuting Attorney's Office.

A booking photograph of Loughmiller was not available from the Blaine County Sheriff's Office because she was never arrested. Rather, she was issued a summons informing her of the charge and ordering her to appear in court.

Loughmiller represented Bellevue in March 2007 at the Idaho Rural Water Association's annual Drinking Water Contest, at which the city was awarded first place. She then represented it in May of that year in Washington, D.C., for the Great American Water Taste Test.

A criminal complaint filed against Loughmiller by the prosecutor's office alleges that she embezzled money intended as utility payments between May and December of 2007.

The complaint states that Loughmiller engaged in a "scheme or plan designed to defraud another" by "appropriating without authorization" the money to herself.

Taylor wrote in his probable cause affidavit that an investigation was initiated after an audit in January 2008 identified discrepancies in utility department financial records.

"Upon review of the city of Bellevue utility accounts, it was discovered that $13,880.96 was accepted from customers, for which the customer's balance was reduced in the account system, but was never deposited in the bank," Taylor wrote.

Taylor alleged in the report that Loughmiller kept a "duplicate receipt book" and issued receipts to customers. He alleged she kept the money and noted an unexplained adjustment in the customer accounts.

"Because adjustments exist solely for billing errors, they are rare occurrences," Taylor wrote. "However, during the time period May 2007 through December 2007, 183 adjustments occurred. These adjustments also lack any explanation or justification."

Though Loughmiller was initially charged with the crime in October 2008, that charge was dismissed in November but refiled in February.

In an e-mail, Prosecuting Attorney Jim Thomas explained that prior to the preliminary hearing on the original charge, prosecutors learned that additional evidence would be needed to prove the entire amount of the embezzlement.

"We chose not to seek a continuance on the case at that time, but sought more investigation even to the extent of obtaining outside expert forensic accounting assistance," he stated.

Loughmiller is represented by Twin Falls attorney Anthony M. Valdez. Court records state that Loughmiller lives in Richfield.

She pleaded not guilty at Monday's arraignment and requested a jury trial. The trial, expected to last five days, has not been scheduled.

Terry Smith: tsmith@mtexpress.com




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