Treasurers for several school districts and fire departments are among 15 public employees around Indiana who have been charged with public corruption for allegedly stealing more than $1 million in government funds, authorities said Thursday.
The list released by U.S. Attorney Josh Minkler contained the names of some defendants who were charged with crimes months ago, but Minkler's office said the cases were part of a large-scale initiative called “Operation Public Accountability,” which involved investigations by the State Board of Accounts with the FBI, Indiana State Police, county sheriffs, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and state and local prosecutors.
Five of the defendants were charged in federal court, and the 10 others face state charges filed by local prosecutors. Minkler said all 15 suspects were arrested in the unrelated corruption cases.
Minkler said that while his office often handles criminal cases involving losses of several million dollars, the smaller sums involved in the five new cases his office is handling represent big financial blows to local government entities.
Those include $58,000 allegedly stolen from Greenwood Middle School, just south of Indianapolis, by a woman who served as a school treasurer, and thefts by the treasurers of three central Indiana fire departments.
"It's not always about the amount of money stolen," Minkler said during a Thursday news conference. "In a lot of these cases, in these small towns, it's about a percentage of their annual budget. And $50,000 is a lot of money to the Greenwood schools."
Kellie Cline, 35, is accused of stealing from programs receiving federal funds while serving as Greenwood Middle School's extra-curricular activity treasurer. Her attorney declined to comment Thursday.
Cline was fired in April after being placed on leave following an internal audit that found the discrepancies.
The biggest losses among the 15 cases involve the Indianapolis Local Public Bond Bank. Two of the bank's employees, Jacqueline Fitzgerald and Monica Durrett, were charged in July in Marion County with allegedly stealing about $400,000.
"These won't be the last cases, and we continue watching," said Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry.
Following is a rundown of the cases and a description from the U.S. Attorney’s Office:
— Kellie Cline, 35, Greenwood, served as the Extra-Curricular Activity (ECA) Treasurer at Greenwood Middle School. She is alleged to have stolen approximately $50,000 from the school’s extra-curricular account.
— Sami Dillon, 38, Crawfordsville, served as the Clerk-Treasurer of Cayuga, in Vermillion County and is alleged to have stolen approximately $44,000 by not depositing utility receipts.
— Clint Madden, 51, Columbus, served as the Wayne Township Trustee and the Jonesville Volunteer Rural Fire Department Treasurer, in Bartholomew County. He is alleged to have misappropriated over $100,000 from the township and the fire department.
— Mathew Mathis, 47, Columbus, served as the Treasurer of the Hope Volunteer Fire Department in Bartholomew County and is alleged to have stolen over $48,000 from the fire department.
— Norman Burgess, 44, Danville, served as the Treasurer of the Wayne Township Fire Department in Hamilton County and is alleged to have stolen approximately $140,000 from the fire department.
— Angela White, 44, Indianapolis, served as the ECA Treasurer for Robey Elementary School in Wayne Township, in Marion County. She is alleged to have stolen approximately $10,000 from the school. Charges are pending with the Marion County Prosecutors Office.
— Rachel Bentz, 44, Portland, served as the Jay County Sheriff’s Department jail matron. She is alleged to have stolen approximately $9,000 by not depositing inmate trustee receipts. This case is pending with the Jay County Prosecutor’s Office.
— Dallas Davis, 56, Russellville, served as the Clerk-Treasurer for the Town of Russellville, and is alleged to have stolen approximately $7,600 by not properly depositing utility receipts. This case is pending with the Putnam County Prosecutor’s Office.
— David Buzzard, 50, Columbus, served as the trustee for the Rock Creek Township Trustee in Bartholomew County. He is alleged to have overpaid himself and his spouse approximately $27,000. This case is pending in Bartholomew County with a special prosecutor.
— Jacqueline Fitzgerald, 54, and Monica Durrett, 56, worked at the Indianapolis Local Public Bond Bank and are alleged to have stolen approximately $400,000. This case is pending with the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office.
— Nicole DeMunck, 35, Michigan City, served as the AK Smith Center Treasurer in the Michigan City School System. She is alleged to have stolen approximately $13,000. This case is pending with the LaPorte County Prosecutor’s Office.
— Nichole Lowry, 47, Kewanna, served as the Pulaski County EMS Director. She is alleged to have stolen over $12,000 in training funds. This case is pending with the Pulaski County Prosecutor’s Office.
— Cheryl Pruitt 50, Gary, served as the former Gary Schools Superintendent, is alleged to have received a $1,256.75 “reimbursement” for funds that she never spent.
— Donald G. Minnick, 64, Gosport, served as an Owen County Commissioner. He improperly sold a vehicle to the county with a loss of $7,500. He was found guilty in Owen County.