Princeton Times

News

November 30, 2012

Harvey pleads to embezzlement, pays county funds back

PRINCETON — Charlotte Harvey told the court Friday that she embezzled more than $14,000 to help feed her children and repair her home.

Harvey, 53, of Princeton, worked in the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department Tax Office, until November 2011, when she confessed to stealing funds from assessor’s office exoneration files and interest on past-due tax payments.

“My children live out of state. There were times when they couldn’t afford groceries or doctors’ bills,” Harvey said, explaining to senior status Judge John Hrko why she embezzled taxpayer funds.

The front foundation of the home she shares with her husband, Ed, also collapsed after a heavy rain event, putting further stress on the funds Harvey had available at her disposal.

In total, Harvey embezzled $14,605.79

As part of the plea agreement she entered Friday, Harvey repaid the money completely, handing over a cashier’s check to Probation Officer Krista Ellison.

“This was an aberration in this woman’s life,” defense attorney Harold Wolfe told the court.

As part of the plea agreement, Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ash recommended probation and a delayed adjudication in the case. He also dismissed one count of embezzlement, in exchange for the guilty plea to one count.

“The state, basically, has very little out of this deal, and you’re getting a lot,” Hrko told Harvey, explaining the necessity that she comply with probation requirements as closely as possible.

Harvey didn’t tell the court precisely how long she had pocketed money meant for Mercer County’s citizens or tax system. In November 2011, however, she said her conscience got the better of her, and she approached Sheriff Don Meadows about the situation.

“I was baptized ...” Harvey said. “I was trying to do the right thing, and I got the feeling that they were doing an investigation anyway.”

Her attorney told the court that authorities had no idea money was missing from the county coffers.

Harvey had two methods, which she confessed to Meadows slightly more than a year ago.

First, she found old files on home assessment exonerations. These files originated when property owners challenged the tax assessment on their homes. When the assessor’s review found that the homeowners deserved payment of back taxes, the report went to the tax office.

Harvey sought out files more than two years old and requested that checks be written for the recorded amounts, cashed the checks that were handed over and used the money for whatever purposes she had at the time.

Ash said she also altered the date of tax payment receipts, charging citizens the regular interest rates on past-due payment and changing the date on the courthouse paperwork, keeping the difference for herself.

Hrko accepted Harvey’s plea and put her on probation for the next year, at which time, the parties in the case will review the situation and adjudicate the file closed or issue a sentence.

The judge said he never liked to send anyone to jail and hoped the best for Harvey.

— Contact Tammie Toler at ttoler@ptonline.net.

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