Columbus – Auditor of State Keith Faber’s office released a special audit of the Village of DeGraff (Logan County) following an investigation conducted by the office’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU). The investigation identified just over $206,000 in misappropriated utility receipts which resulted in a finding for recovery and supported criminal charges against former Utility Clerk Jennifer Dearwester. The criminal investigation and special audit of the Village was predicated on concerns raised by the Local Government Services Division (LGS) of the Auditor of State.
As the Utility Clerk, Ms. Dearwester processed Village utilities and was the initial point of contact for
Village customers paying other types of fees, such as guaranteed deposits for utilities and park donations. She started with the Village on September 11, 2006, and resigned on March 13, 2018.
Due to a control structure that lacked segregation of duties, Ms. Dearwester’s primary responsibilities included but were not limited to, inputting meter readings into the utility system, updating customer accounts, generating and mailing utility bills, collecting customer payments, and subsequently preparing and making the deposit at the bank. Auditors examined all utility receipt transactions in the Village’s utility system for the Period and compared the receipts to deposits made into the Village’s bank account and identified 1,393 receipts totaling $206,077 in which the monies collected were not deposited into the Village’s bank account.
Additionally, auditors examined all handwritten receipts in the Village’s duplicate receipt books, as recorded by Ms. Dearwester for the time period, and compared the receipts to deposits made to the Village’s bank account. They identified two receipts totaling $105 in which the monies collected were not deposited into the Village’s bank account.
On February 11, 2020, Ms. Dearwester was indicted by the Logan County grand jury on five counts, including one count of theft in office, one count of aggravated theft, and three counts of tampering with records. On June 1, 2020, Ms. Dearwester entered a negotiated plea of guilty to one count of theft in office, a felony of the third degree and one count of tampering with records, a felony of the third degree. On July 8, 2020, she was sentenced to 36 months in prison for each count to be served concurrently and ordered restitution of $241,852, which includes both the misappropriated receipts and the special audit costs, in favor of the Village of DeGraff.
A finding for recovery for public monies converted or misappropriated was issued against Jennifer Dearwester and her bonding company, Western Surety Company, jointly and severally, in the amount of $241,822 in favor of the Village’s Water and Sewer Fund, with $30 in favor of the General Fund.
A full copy of this report is available online.