Indiana State Police say they are close to making an arrest in the alleged theft of at least $34,000 from the Van Bibber Lake Conservancy in a case that has shaken up the political balance in the small community and cost taxpayers at least $100,000, local leaders say.
State Police Sgt. Scott Stockton, who is investigating the case, said he has spoken with the suspect in the theft and is nearing the end of his investigation. He would not release the suspect's name, though he does not believe the former Conservancy employee is a flight risk.
The suspect allegedly wrote checks to herself totaling at least $20,000 and pocketed money from the sale of the Conservancy's trash bags, said the president of the Conservancy, Jerry Thacker.
An independent audit paid for by the Conservancy found tens of thousands of dollars that were missing from the conservancy, Thacker said. Between the theft and mismanagement, the Conservancy has lost about $100,000 in the last three years, he added.
Stockton said he believes at $34,000 was stolen.
The Van Bibber Lake Conservancy was established in 1970 to provide safe drinking water to the residents of the Van Bibber Lake. Though it is not legally a town, the conservancy handles many of the municipal functions for the community of about 400 families. It is responsible for maintaining and building roads, handles sewer and water service and trash pickup. The Conservancy Board members are elected by local homeowners and oversee the conservancy and its $250,000 annual budget.
Board members and the conservancy's attorney met with the BannerGraphic last month to discuss the alleged theft.
Thacker said he began looking into the conservancy's finances in 2005 when he asked how it accounted for the sale of trash bags.
The conservancy sells garbage bags for $1.25 each that residents must use in order for their trash to be collected.
Investigators now believe that the employee pocketed much of the money she took in, Thacker said.
When conservancy employees and board members dug deeper, they found many canceled checks the employee had written herself, said Mary Anderson, the Conservancy's new office manager.
However, Thacker said a new board and management staff, which was put in place after upheaval from the alleged financial mismanagement and other political controversies, has begun to straighten out the conservancy's books and the community looks like it is on the road to recovery.