Thursday, October 3, 2013

Retired school bookkeeper faces embezzlement charges in Virginia

A former employee of the Tazewell County School System could spend the rest of her life in prison after being charged with 15 counts of embezzlement.
Tazewell County Commonwealth’s Attorney Dennis Lee said Willie Kathy Hicks, 53, also known as Kathy Keene, 53, of North Tazewell was indicted Oct. 2 on 15 counts of embezzlement by a public officer and one count of money laundering.

Lee said Hicks was an employee of the Tazewell County School System and was at Tazewell Middle School as secretary and bookkeeper at the time the investigation was started.  Hicks retired from the school system earlier this year.
Lee said School Board Attorney Allen McGraw contacted his office May 19 and told them they believed money had been taken from Tazewell Middle School.  Lee asked the Virginia State Police and Special Agent Joshua Stitt was assigned to the case.
Lee said Stitt, who specializes in accounting crimes subpoenaed bank records back to 2006 and estimated Hicks had allegedly taken over $300,000 from the school system.
A press release from the state police said Hicks took money from the school and school related events and deposited them in her personal account.  Lee said the Commonwealth had originally planned to indict Hicks during the Sept. 10 term of grand jury.
He said Agent Stitt’s wife had a baby during the time leading up to the grand jury and he took time off to be with her. That and delays in receiving some reports led to the information needed to present an indictment arriving one day late.
Lee said the circuit court anticipated this case and some others and did not release the grand jury. They were called back Oct. 2 and presented the case against Hicks and a half dozen other cases.
Hicks was arrested and taken before a magistrate and released on bond.   She will be arraigned and have a trial date scheduled. The release from the state police said the investigation is on-going.
Dr. Michaelene Meyer, superintendent of schools in Tazewell County issued a written statement and said the system would have no further comment. The school board held a called meeting Oct. 3 to discuss personnel and legal matters but took no action and released no statements.
"Upon notification of the potential irregularities in Tazewell Middle School’s accounting for school activity funds, and suspected missing monies, Dr. Brenda Lawson notified members of the Tazewell County School Board.  The School Board took immediate action in this matter by informing and turning over the investigation to appropriate authorities.  At this time, the division has no further comment to make regarding this matter,' the statement said.
 Lee said embezzlement carries up to 20 years for each count and money laundering carries up to 40.

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