Audit Claims Former Terlton Town Clerk Embezzled More Than $77,000
Thursday, January 15th 2015, 11:46 AM CST
An affidavit filed by the Pawnee County District Attorney's Office says Rhonda Jo Walker, 42, embezzled the money and then hid her tracks by creating bogus bank statements she presented at town board meetings.
An investigative audit requested by the DA and released by the Oklahoma State Auditor and Inspector on Tuesday states that out of 411 transactions Walker made on the Town of Terlton checking account, 237 were payable to “cash” and had memo explanations that were not legitimate when compared to invoices. The audit found that only $925.10 possibly was for official town business, documents say.
Walker was the city clerk for five years. Court documents say she tended to the town's financial business and utility bills out of her home. Terlton has a population of about 100, with a mayor and two trustees, which included Walker.
According to the audit, Terlton mayor Diana Tilley-Esparza brought attention to the alleged missing funds. Tilley-Esparza told investigators that Walker was asked to relinquish the financial records on April 16, 2014. Walker was appointed on July 14, 2009 to fill the unexpired clerk term and she was voted in to the position on Aug. 25, 2009, the mayor told officials.
Tilley-Esparza issued a statement on Thursday, expressing her hope for justice, but claimed it is bittersweet since Walker was a trusted friend.
“It is difficult not to take something like this personally when you are part of such a close-knit community,” Tilley-Esparza said. “It's a terrible blow, to be betrayed by someone you trust. It's magnified when on a community scale. Terlton is strong. We get back up when something knocks us down. And that's what we'll do now. We will move forward, as we start over. We look forward to finding justice in the pending criminal case against a person we not only trusted, but considered a friend.”
According to an affidavit, Walker presented bogus bank statements to the town board “that did not reconcile to town bank statements and did not include the checks made payable to cash" and endorsed by her.
Multiple checks on the account, also made payable to "cash," were endorsed by Walker's son, the affidavit says.
Walker was booked into jail by Pawnee County deputies on Dec. 23 and released on a $10,000 personal recognizance bond. She is due in court again on Feb. 10 at 9 a.m.
If convicted, Walker faces up to 10 years in prison, a fine up to $10,000 and full restitution.