School Theft Case Turned Over To Dps

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The Payson Police Department has turned its investigation into the alleged embezzlement of $140,000 from the Payson School District by a former accountant over to the Arizona Department of Public Safety for further investigation.


The suspect's identity is being withheld pending a decision by the Gila County Attorney's office to file formal charges.


Although school district officials originally thought a former district accounting supervisor siphoned $50,000 out of district funds, Superintendent Herb Weissenfels said they now believe that figure is closer to $140,000.


"The case is now in the hands of the county attorney, and DPS," Weissenfels said.


Gila County Attorney Jerry DeRose said the Payson Police Department did a good job of investigating the allegations of theft, and turned up a stack of canceled checks, with corresponding personal bills that suggested the employee had been paying her debts with school funds.


"The reason it's gone to DPS is that they have auditing staff that can devote the time and expertise necessary to make sure that we do a thorough investigation," DeRose said. "Payson did a great job, but they don't have auditors, they don't have CPAs. In order to (do this investigation), we'd have to hire one at county expense. They're pretty expensive, like $150 an hour. These guys (at DPS) do it for nothing, and they're very good at it."


DeRose said DPS auditors have been investigating for about a month now, and a typical audit can last as long as two months.


While the investigation continues, the woman and her husband -- a contracted employee of the school district -- continue to live on school property, Weissenfels said.


"(The husband) has a contract that is still valid," the superintendent said. "The family is still living on school property, because that is part of the husband's contract with the district. And, I have to say that he has fulfilled his contract as requested."


In the meantime, Weissenfels said the school district's insurance company should be replacing the $140,000 soon.


"The school is not letting this drop," he said Monday. "We are trying to get the money back so that we'll have it for the education of our kids."

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