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Federal, State Prosecutors Charge 15 Public Officials With Corruption-Related Crimes

U.S. Attorney Josh Minkler says Indiana State Police helped in some rural areas, where catching this kind of crime can be a challenge for local law enforcement. (Drew Daudelin, WFYI)

Federal and state prosecutors Thursday announced the results of a combined effort to charge public officials with corruption-related charges. The cases represent a total loss of more than $1 million.

"Operation Public Accountability," as prosecutors called it, resulted in charges against 15 public and government workers across the state.

Most of them are treasurers – for agencies like a middle school, a fire department, and even a town.

The amount of money allegedly stolen or misappropriated ranges from $1,256.75 to almost $500,000. U.S. Attorney Josh Minkler says it’s important to put each case in context.

"In a lot of these cases, in these small towns, it’s about a percentage of their annual budget," Minkler says. "$50,000 is a lot of money to the Greenwood Schools. $44,000 is a lot in Vermillion County."

Prosecutors say some used the money to pay for personal items, like vehicles.

The largest case, by amount of money, is against Jacqueline Fitzgerald and Monica Durrett, who worked at the Indianapolis Local Public Bond Bank. They’re charged with stealing about $400,000 over several years.

Minkler says preventative measures are being implemented to help deter similar crimes from happening again.

"In all these investigations the State Board of Accounts will note deficiencies in some of these towns, will suggest corrective measures, and will issue compliance reports," Minkler says. "So that some of these small townships that have public dollars, that have access to this money, are able to be better watchdogs of the public money that they receive."

Minkler says Indiana State Police helped in some rural areas, where catching this kind of crime can be a challenge for local law enforcement.

Minkler says none of the cases are connected, aside from the fact that they're all public or government workers. Five are federal cases, and the rest are state level. And he says they should be able to recover the money and return it to their respective agencies.

All 15 individuals have been arrested.

Below is the complete list of cases 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.  

State cases include:

 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 $7500. He was found guilty in Owen County.

This story has been updated.

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