THAYER — A former city clerk of the City of Thayer in Neosho County has been sentenced to 12 months and a day for embezzling $120,000, U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said today. She was ordered to pay $120,000 in restitution. At sentencing, the mayor of Thayer told the court the small city has had to raise taxes because of the theft.
Laura Whittley, age 50, of Thayer pleaded guilty to one count of bank fraud and one count of money laundering. In her plea, she admitted she used more than one method to steal money from the city including:
• Pocketing cash paid by citizens for utility bills, municipal court payments, parks and wildlife licenses and permits.
• Issuing unauthorized checks to herself.
• Using a city credit card to pay for her personal purchases.
• Submitting fraudulent bills for clean up work done after a large storm in May 2009. The bills were paid by the city, partly with funds received through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
In order to conceal the thefts, she presented a fraudulent letter to Emprise Bank in Chanute, directing the bank to cash a $100,000 certificate of deposit belonging to the city. She had the bank put $50,000 into a new CD, and she deposited some of the remaining proceeds into the city’s account to conceal the thefts. She went back the next year and removed the remaining money in the CD without authorization in order to cover her embezzlement, which left the city’s general account depleted and unable to cover regular bills.
Grissom commended the Neosho County Sheriff’s Office, the Internal Revenue Service, the FBI and Assistant U.S. Attorney Mona Furst for their work on the case.