Jennie Carter appeared for her initial hearing in Starke Circuit Court this morning. Charged with a felony count of theft, Carter pleaded not guilty to Judge Kim Hall. She is currently out on $5,000 cash bond.
Carter requested a court appointed lawyer, but under questioning by the judge, she said that she was gainfully employed, and paid $2,600 a month. When asked if she had anything of value that could be sold to pay a lawyer, she said she had a four-year-old television and a 2007 Ford Taurus that she was making payments on. Her on-hand cash was listed as $200.00, and she said her $5,000 bond money was borrowed.
The judge denied her request for a pauper attorney and set a court date of April 20th with attorney. The other alternative is that the attorney she employs could file papers indicating that he or she is representing Ms. Carter.
Carter is charged with theft of $7,748.40 from the Starke County Tourism account. This is a Class D Felony. She told Judge Hall that all of the money has been paid back.
Carter, 56, is alleged to have had access to the Starke County Tourism Commission checkbook and took the funds. One of the checks was written to Drug and Tobacco Free Starke County on March 3rd, 2011 in the amount of $7,140.00. Then on May 18, 2011, she is alleged to have written a check from Drug and Tobacco Free Starke County in the amount of $7,068.60, which was deposited in the Starke County Tourism Commission account. The difference of this withdrawal and deposit is $71.40 which is the amount Ms. Carter told the Tourism Commission was needed to pay taxes.
On June 2nd, 2011, a check in the amount of $7,748.40 was written to Indiana Department of Revenue. Ms. Carter requested three checks to be signed in case the Department of Revenue requested three separate checks. She stated she would give the Tourism Commission information regarding the taxes at a later date. The commission was told that the taxes were from a previous employee who had not had taxes taken out of their payroll check.
On August 9th, 2011, the commission issued a stop payment request on the missing check #430. On August 18, 2011, the commission issued a stop payment request on the other two missing checks numbered 417 and 418.
On December 12, 2011, the Starke County Tourism Commission sent an inquiry to the Indiana Department of Revenue for withholding tax registration. In a letter back to the commission, the Department of Revenue said its records indicated the SCTC was not registered to withhold state and county withholding.
The tourism commission drafted a letter to Ms. Carter on January 10, 2012, requesting the funds returned by March 15, 2012. The letter states Ms. Carter owed $5,706 as of January 10. Ms. Carter has made two payments in an attempt to return the funds. A cash deposit was made by Ms. Cartrer on November 17, 2011 in the amount of $2,113.80 and on February 3, 2012 a cashier’s check in the amount of $4,000 was placed back into the SCTC account.
On January 11, 2012 Mr. Rich Wieczorek, John Hensler, and Ms. Carter met at the Country Kettle Restaurant in Knox to discuss the checking account irregularities. Mr. Hensler wrote a letter after the meeting, which detailed the facts of the gathering. Ms. Carter admitted to taking the funds from the Tourism Commission. “She explained that a shortfall of fund for Drug Free had occurred in July.” Ms. Carter allegedly also borrowed money from a relative until this relative’s husband lost his job. Ms. Carter stated she would return the money and asked that the matter not be turned over to law enforcement. Ms. Carter stated she would return the money when she received her tax return.
On March 5, 2012, the Detective spoke to Stephanie Edwards of the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute. Ms. Edwards stated the ICJI received information from the Starke County Auditor in reference to banking records from Drug and Tobacco Free Starke County. She received the information from the Starke County Auditor. Ms. Edwards stated she had been reviewing some of the information she received from the Auditor which showed Drug and Tobacco Free Starke County had four different banking accounts. In looking over the information, Ms. Edwards noted there was some peculiar activity including ATM transactions and seemed to have more money withdrawn than there was deposited to the account. A canvass has not been completed.
In February, the Drug and Tobacco Free Starke County Board voted 8-2 to let Ms. Carter remain the Coalition Coordinator for the organization until a complete audit was made of the books.