Thursday, May 2, 2013

Former school employee pleads guilty to embezzlement charges in North Carolina

A former bookkeeper at Northern Vance High School avoided active jail time through a plea agreement on embezzlement charges in Vance County Superior Court Wednesday afternoon.

Delia Jones was facing four counts of embezzlement of a public official, a Class F charge that could have carried a sentence of 16 to 29 months for each count. Jones agreed to plead guilty to four Class H charges and was given a suspended jail sentence of six to 17 months, to run consecutively, for each count; probation for 60 months; and an order to pay restitution of $38,283.49 to Vance County Schools.

Also, Judge Elaine Bushfan ordered Jones to perform 75 hours of community service, not to return to Northern Vance and not to have any involvement with public funds.

Before Bushfan’s sentence was delivered, defense attorney Michael Rogers told the court, “I think she’s coming to terms with the gravity of the situation.”

He asked for probation to end early if the money is paid back before the end of the probation period. Allison Capps, an assistant district attorney prosecuting, agreed on behalf of the state but not before asking Bushfan to consider a longer probation period than 36 months due to the amount of restitution. She also asked for sentencing to be on the higher end of the presumptive range.

According to the prosecution, Jones began taking money from the school in 2009 in her role as bookkeeper. A random audit performed by Winston, Williams, Creech & Evans, a certified public accounting firm located in Oxford, found $10,283.77 missing and reasoned the loss was through Jones.

Jones had a meeting with the school system’s human resources manager, attorney and the superintendent and denied charges she took the money. Capps said she was escorted from the school grounds at that time.

After a review by the county attorney and a school official, it was determined $38,382.49 had been taken from Northern Vance and the sheriff’s office began an investigation, led by Lt. Joseph Ferguson, leading to Jones’ arrest. She turned herself in Nov. 8.

“Lt. Ferguson of the Vance County Sheriff’s Office was assigned to the case, and she admitted that she had in fact taken money from the school,” Capps told the court. “She kept two sets of books. One showed the real amount of money that came in, and the other showed the amount she deposited after she took what she wanted.”

Capps explained on several occasions, Jones kept a portion of money that was designated for the school. Capps said after Jones admitted to her attorney she took the money, she said it was for a child in college and she wasn’t receiving child support.

The school system is seeking full restitution and has made no other efforts to recoup the losses, such as through insurance, according to Capps

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