Saturday, July 10, 2010

School Board Member-Elect from West Virginia Charged With Embezzlement

A man recently elected as a Brooke County school board member is accused of embezzling more than $10,000 in cash and goods from his workplace. Benwood police said Joseph Adams Jr. is charged with one count of embezzlement and four counts of obtaining money, goods, or property through false pretenses.
Investigators said the crimes happened while Adams was working for REM West Virginia Inc., a company that serves people with special needs. Police said another employee notified them of the alleged crimes on June 28 after a bank alerted REM.
"The company wasn't aware of it. They were notified by WesBanco Bank, who notified them that they saw some activity that looked suspicious -- checks that were wrote out to REM and they were to be deposited into a personal account, which is not allowed to happen to begin with," said Benwood police Capt. Dave McLaughlin.
Bank officials became suspicious after Adams cashed business checks into his personal account. Officers said he cashed about $3,600 in two checks and embezzled around $7,350 in supplies.
"We found a little over $7,000 of materials and supplies that he had ordered from a company and the materials were delivered directly into the defendant's home," McLaughlin said. He said police have not found the office supplies.
Police said Adams turned himself in on Thursday at his attorney's recommendation, but since he has legal representation police could not question him.
Adams is a Brooke High School graduate and was elected in May to represent the Weirton magisterial district of the school system.
After he was elected in May, Adams told NEWS9, "We should look at each person and make them more accountable for their actions."
Voters across the community have mixed feelings on whether or not he should hold his position on the board.
"I don't believe that he needs to be taken off the school board for any reason until he's proven one way guilty or innocent at all," said Dan Diserio a resident of Wellsburg.
"How about a thing called justice. Wait, it's a school board. How about something for children to look at a grown-up and say 'they're worth emulating,' " said Ginny Elman of Wellsburg.
Brooke County Schools Superintendent Dr. Kathy Kidder said she learned about the charges in the news and contacted the executive director of the West Virginia School Board Association and the school system's attorney for information on if Adams can hold office pending the criminal charges.
Kidder also said she believes that Adams meant what he said to NEWS9 after the election.
"I believe Joe still feels that way. I had him as a student when he was at Brooke High School, and I believe that he was speaking the truth," she said.
She also said she will not shy away from the situation.
"I think it's vital that school board members are held accountable for their actions and that they serve as a role model for our students," she said.  But, Kidder said Adams is innocent until proven guilty and he is scheduled be sworn in as a school board member Tuesday at 6 p.m., when the board holds its reorganization meeting. "He has two options: To be sworn in and carry out his duties or, if he would choose, to resign," Kidder said. Kidder said board members and school officials can decide to remove Adams from his position on the school board, but that would require a petition filed through court.McLaughlin said the position to serve on the school board is a "high honor" and said that Adams' case is "disturbing." "When you're taking care of our children of our area and then charge him with an offense like this -- taking company money from REM, which their job is to take care of the handicapped of our community -- that makes it disturbing," he said. And Ginny Elman agrees. "No matter how much or how little you have, help somebody in need and if somebody has anything wrong with them you have to respect them. Who's he going to steal from next? I don't know babies, nuns?" said Elman.NEWS9 attempted to reach Adams at his home, but he had not returned calls as of 5 p.m. Friday. If convicted, Adams faces one to 10 years in prison for each count that he's facing.

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