Monday, January 14, 2013

Plea Hearing for Individual Charged in Johnson Elementary PTA Embezzlement Set in West Virginia

The individual who allegedly embezzled tens of thousands of dollars from the Johnson Elementary School PTA will have a plea hearing Jan. 16 in front of Harrison County Circuit Judge Thomas Bedell. An official in the office of Harrison County Prosecutor Joe Shaffer said the hearing will take place at roughly 2:15 p.m.

Barring a continuance, Melissa Wilfong of Bridgeport will enter her plea that time. Shaffer said the process is fairly simple.

“The defendant will go in front of the judge with their lawyer and, generally, plead guilty,” Shaffer said. “You never know if the guilty plea will be entered until it happens, but that’s what it’s scheduled for.”

Wilfong was arrested by West Virginia State Police the morning of August. 15. Wilfong, 36 at the time of the arrest, was charged with felony embezzlement. Shaffer said that Wilfong was charged with allegedly embezzling more than $20,000. Published and other media reports had that total at $20,195.

The investigation into the missing funds from the PTA became public knowledge in June. Wilfong served as treasurer of the PTA until June. It was determined by an investigation of the West Virginia State Police that she acted alone, Shaffer said.

“It’s not likely that the defendant will be sentenced at the hearing,” said Shaffer, whose office represents the state in the case. “The typical procedure is that following the entering of the plea, a pre-sentencing investigation report would be done. That report is handled by the probation office and a sentencing date is set at a later time.”

Wilfong is charge with one felony count of embezzlement. The charge, said Shaffer, comes with a jail sentence range of between 1 and 10 years and carries with it the possibility of a fine.

News of the situation broke June 21. Former Harrison County Board of Education President Paul Howe said an audit of the PTA’s books was done by Tetrick & Bartlett and that information was given to the State Police in their investigation.

Current Harrison County Board of Education president Mike Queen said in August he’s anticipating Wilfong will make full restitution to the PTA. He also said that he anticipates restitution for the BOE’s accounting and legal fees in the matter

West Virginia State Police Sgt. Mark Kiddy handled the investigation of the case, according to Shaffer.

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