City embezzlement case approaches $300,000

Tom Joyce Staff Reporter

October 11, 2013

The sum involved in an embezzlement case under investigation by the Mount Airy Police Department for much of this year now has exceeded $280,000, according to information presented at a meeting Thursday.

During that meeting of the city Public Safety Committee in the Municipal Building, the name of the medical facility at the center of the probe — Mount Airy Vision Center — also was identified publicly for the first time.

The case involves a former office manager at the South Renfro Street facility who allegedly misdirected funds, using company credit cards for personal gain and otherwise taking advantage of access granted by her position, based on previous reports.

In July, when the case first became public, Police Chief Dale Watson said it had been under investigation by city detectives for several months at that point, with the dollar amount for the loss then put at $180,000 and counting.

During Thursday’s meeting of the Public Safety Committee, a group composed of two city commissioners which meets quarterly to hear reports on police and fire activities — including updates on major cases — information was presented showing the figure exceeds $280,000 at present.

It further was noted Thursday that the alleged embezzlement spans the past 12 years.

The police chief said at the meeting that the main factor adding to the length of the investigation of late has been getting certain financial records linked to the case subpoenaed.

He earlier had said that the probe has involved a painstaking process to unearth various transactions, with detectives working closely with Mount Airy Vision Center and its accountants to pinpoint the full extent of the loss.

Warrants are forthcoming against the suspect, according to the police chief, but he gave no indication Thursday about when this might occur.

Scams Decline

Also during Thursday’s meeting, it was reported that after months of growing activity regarding Internet and mail scams targeting local residents and businesses, such cases are on the decline.

The police department has seen a “slight drop” in these incidents, according to a summary of recent crime activity.

One step taken by the department to deal with a rash of schemes has involved sending email alerts to warn businesses and citizens when scams surface.

Watson said he hopes the recent downturn reflects police efforts to educate the community.

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