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Feds take over theft case

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

George Alexander
Federal authorities in Indianapolis on Monday picked up the case against the former Putnam County Sheriff's Department employee who was arrested in May for allegedly stealing $45,500 in U.S. Department of Justice grant money.

George Alexander appeared in front of Judge Kennard P. Foster in federal court Monday to hear a complaint of two counts of theft of federal money against him.

The U.S. Attorney's office for the Southern district of Indiana now has 30 days to return an indictment against him, said Acting U.S. Attorney Tim Morrison.

The Oct. 11 complaint, written by Department of Justice Special Agent Jill F. Semmerling, is the work of a combined investigation by the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Justice, the FBI and the Indiana State Police.

The U.S. Marshal Service transferred Alexander from the Parke County Jail where he was being held on $50,000 bond to a community corrections facility in Indianapolis run by the Volunteers of America, the federal prosecutor said.

Morrison did not rule out bringing in more suspects, saying that the investigation is "still ongoing."

The feds have only taken on one of the three cases against Alexander and the state will not drop its theft charges relating to the grant money unless he is found guilty in federal court, said Nina Alexander, the special prosecutor appointed to the case for Putnam County.

Last month, Alexander's lawyer Jeffrey Boggess withdrew as counsel. At the federal hearing Monday, the court appointed public defender William Marsh to represent Alexander.

An affidavit Semmerling filed with the complaint gives the details of the alleged theft.

Alexander, who was working as an ombudsman for the sheriff's department at the time, applied for a Department of Justice grant to establish an Emergency Response Team in the Putnam County Sheriff's Department on April 5, 2005, the affidavit said.

On Sept. 9, 2005, the Department of Justice awarded $27,143 to the sheriff's department. The Justice Department received a receipt for the money dated Sept. 28, 2005. The receipt bore the signature of Putnam County Commissioner Gene Beck. Beck told investigators that he neither signed for nor knew about the grant, the affidavit said.

Then, on Dec. 15, 2005 Alexander allegedly withdrew the entire amount of the grant from the sheriff's department's Special Project account and deposited it into his personal bank account at Members Heritage Federal Credit Union, the affidavit said. A review of Alexander's bank records showed that he used the funds for his own personal use and not for the sheriff's department, Semmerling wrote.

Then, on April 19, 2006 Alexander applied for and received a second grant for the same purpose, this time for $18,384. Again, the Justice Department received a receipt signed by Beck. Beck denied having any knowledge of the second grant, as well, the affidavit said.

Then, one day after the Department of Justice wired $18,384 to the sheriff's department's bank, Alexander withdrew $18,403 -- leaving $98.33 in the account, according to the affidavit. Later that day, Sept. 15, 2006, he deposited the money into his personal bank account.

In both cases, Alexander withdrew the money in the form of a cashier's check made out to him and in both cases, he signed for cash back after he deposited the checks at his own bank, according to the affidavit.

The maximum penalty for the theft is 10 years in prison and at $250,000 fine, Morrison said. Federal sentencing guidelines that suggest a punishment comparable to the amount of money stolen will likely mean that, if convicted, Alexander will likely serve less than the maximum, he added.

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Morrison did not rule out bringing in more suspects, saying that the investigation is "still ongoing."

-- Posted by concerned3 on Fri, Oct 19, 2007, at 3:22 PM

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