Former finance employee sentenced - Coeur d'Alene Press: Local News

Former finance employee sentenced

Carroll stole $365,000 from the city of Cd'A

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Posted: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 12:00 am

COEUR d'ALENE - The former Coeur d'Alene finance employee who pleaded guilty to stealing $365,000 from the city was sentenced to more than three years in prison Monday.

Sheryl Lynn Carroll, 52, will voluntarily surrender in the next four to six weeks to begin serving the 40 month sentence ordered by U.S. District Judge Edward J. Lodge. She was also ordered to pay $365,000 in restitution, and will serve three years supervised probation and work 100 community service hours upon her release from prison.

"This type of crime is committed over and over," Lodge told Carroll, who dabbed her eye with tissue at times during the sentencing, which included impact statements read by her former coworkers. "You had to have thought about the consequences as it was happening, if you got caught."

The sentence nearly matched the high-end of what the pre-sentence report recommended, which was a term between 33 and 41 months.

The judge, along with the U.S. attorney's office and Carroll's former colleagues, said Carroll shattered the public's trust when she stole money over several years from her desk inside City Hall. City officials said Carroll's actions destroyed morale for employees still there.

"We worked hard to build trust as civil servants," Wendy Gabriel, city administrator, told the court. "The defendant, all by herself, took it away."

Carroll was terminated by the city in July after city staff noticed financial irregularities while Carroll was away on vacation. She had been hired in 2002 and stole around $365,000 through 120 fraudulent transfers from 2007 to 2012 as she worked as a payroll coordinator in the city's finance department, according to court reports.

The three vendors Carroll used to defraud the city, according to the court records, are the Voluntary Employee Benefit Association, International Association of Fire Fighters and United Heritage Mutual insurance company. The accounts were a part of "payroll deductions and employee benefits."

Carroll wired $5,000 into her account every month as she committed the thefts, while covering her tracks by making the city's books balance. Carroll had also been convicted in 1983 in Oregon for stealing from the real estate company for which she had worked, and the pre-sentence report referred to at least one incident where Carroll abused trust as a volunteer for Woodland Middle School, though the specific nature of that incident was unclear during sentencing.

"Nobody but the defendant created this situation," Assistant U.S. Attorney Traci Whelan said, adding that how Carroll spent the money remained "unknown and unexplained."

A choked up Carroll didn't say why she stole the money, but told the court she was seeking help through counseling and faith.

"I am healing from that brokenness that brought me to this place, she said.

"I am very, very sorry for the wrong I did the city of Coeur d'Alene and my fellow employees," she said. "I ask for your forgiveness - everyone that I hurt."

Friends and family of Carroll hugged after the sentence, and some talked with city staff outside the courtroom. Although statute allows 20 years for each of the counts against Carroll, Whelan recommended the judge follow the pre-sentence report. Defense attorney Gary Amendola recommended less jail time than what the report suggested.

Lodge said considering the trust issue was paramount in issuing the sentence.

"The trust that's lost," he said. "It just couldn't be any clearer than what we've heard today."

Carroll pleaded guilty to six counts of wire fraud Nov. 5.

City employees described the devastating feeling of being lied to by a person who they considered a friend, and who carried herself as a religious person. What compounded that was the aftermath of the public not trusting city workers after news of the thefts broke. Some people called for the resignation of top city administration in online discussions.

"I've never seen an action lead to a lower morale than her crime," Mayor Sandi Bloem said, calling it a crime against "thousands of people. She stole with a smile."

"I believe Sheryl is nothing more than a career criminal," an emotional Vonnie Jensen, who worked with Carroll in the finance department, told the court. "She got caught. She didn't surrender."

City staff and the attorney's office said Carroll tried to lie her way through the crime after other employees discovered the financial irregularities. City staff then investigated the entire method behind the "complex" thefts, and implemented safeguards to prevent them from happening again.

In a press release late Monday, Gabriel called the sentencing "fair and just."

"Carroll committed a crime and in the process violated the trust of the public and of her co-workers. She absolutely deserves this punishment," Gabriel said.

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19 comments:

  • Frankie posted at 12:43 pm on Wed, Mar 6, 2013.

    Frankie Posts: 14

    Millburn is correct. I worked for the state. There were checks and balances constantly. I don't remember exactly how this person did this crime, but if the checks and balances had been at work as they should have been in a private or public institution, this couldn't/wouldn't have happened. She is not the only one who should take the fall. Everyone above her in the chain of command is at fault.
    At the state--we had to show invoices that we paid, our payments were checked by no less than three people including the department head before they went out. Constantly we had to dig through previous year's invoices for state audits which were ongoing almost all the time.
    So, what does the City of CdA do? Nothing? Why? That's GAP, you know.

     
  • Mark on the Park posted at 11:37 am on Wed, Mar 6, 2013.

    Mark on the Park Posts: 471

    Maybe there are/were others in high places that desired loose checks and balances?

     
  • Mary Souza posted at 4:05 pm on Tue, Mar 5, 2013.

    Mary Souza Posts: 808

    Bill McCrory, who is retired Secret Service, has a very good review of this crime over on OpenCdA.com He's questioning why the Secret Service was called in to investigate this, during an election year no less, when the FBI or IRS would have been much more appropriate. Here's what Bill says about our City officials:

    "It’s convenient for Bloem, Gabriel, and Jensen to suggest they, too, were deceived. Perhaps their hope is Coeur d’Alene residents and voters will forget that preventing Carroll’s embezzlement was their duty and responsibility as public officials. It was a duty shared by City Finance Director Troy Tymesen. It was also the duty of City Human Resources Director Pam MacDonald to have properly investigated Carroll’s background to determine if there was anything suggesting Carroll was untrustworthy."

    You can read the rest at www.opencda.com

     
  • stebbijo posted at 2:38 pm on Tue, Mar 5, 2013.

    stebbijo Posts: 49

    It's all vague. Here is the plea agreement from October of last year. The judge just had to formalize it - that can take months, obviously. Just copy and paste.

    http://stebbijo.com/https___ecf.idd.uscourts.pdf

    Here is an information sheet that is also kind of entertaining.

    http://stebbijo.com/judicial/https___ecf.idd.uscourts.gov_cgi-bin_show_multidocs%20information.pdf

    I did not read anything about 5K per month. The counts do not even add up to 365K. Also, there is so much that is sealed that we are not supposed to know about, I guess we just have to swallow it all as just one big horse pill.

     
  • chouli posted at 1:50 pm on Tue, Mar 5, 2013.

    chouli Posts: 1283

    Apparently crime does pay here. And pretty darnn well.
    Only 3 years sentence for stealing AT LEAST $365K ??
    40 months total jail time and you can count on it being reduced for so called 'good time'. Is that justice?? Really?? How many others have far more severe sentences for less crimes? Hmmm...

    No idea given on where the money went? Did the trial even discuss that little factoid? Why not? As taxpayers I think we need more information on WHERE the money went. We need to know how much more may have been taken because it doesn't seen like they really know...they know $365K but it may be more.

    What a good career move for her. I know I can't make $365K in 3 years time. Heck at about $121K per year for sitting in prison. That's almost what our city administrative staff makes!!

    And why is it it took 4 months from the guilty plea to the sentencing...AND why does she get to "voluntarily surrender in the next four to six weeks"?? I thought when a person gets sentenced they proceed imeediately to jail from the courtroom. Why does she get to have 4 to 6 weeks to get around to it?? This is just way too fishy. Another example of the different justice system for people with connections and those without.

     
  • cdaterry1 posted at 1:49 pm on Tue, Mar 5, 2013.

    cdaterry1 Posts: 56

    Absolute agreement - NoName - magnuson mchugh should be fired and replaced....of course they will want to remind the city of the huge "discount" in auditing fees the city received because of their long term relationship....this is complete incompetence to not question internal controls enough to catch 350k over how many years??

     
  • NoName posted at 10:46 am on Tue, Mar 5, 2013.

    NoName Posts: 253

    Magnuson/McHugh should be fired and sued.

     
  • DeNiles posted at 9:33 am on Tue, Mar 5, 2013.

    DeNiles Posts: 2450

    Can there be any doubt that this person used those funds to set up her family for long term gains? The state needs to go into that families entire estate and capture every asset and ounce of cash they can find. When this ladies 'hand slap' prison time is finished she should look forward to living in a refrigerator box, alone, because her family won't have squat to do with her.

    And, who does the hiring background checks here? How many other felons have been put in charge of accounting processes without any oversight? How many are there now? This lady was convicted of worming the books and stealing in Oregon and got hired on here for the very same type of work?

     
  • stebbijo posted at 8:48 am on Tue, Mar 5, 2013.

    stebbijo Posts: 49

    Once she admitted to the 6 counts of fraud - you would think that the investigation would go further by looking into her personal accounts to determine where the money went? Or was this a plea bargain that just stopped the poking around once she admitted guilt? The amount of 365K is just an agreed upon amount - no one really knows how much money went missing. There were at least 120 transfers and the counts show large amounts that occurred on specific days that do not even add up to 365. So where is the rest?

     
  • milburnschmidt posted at 8:37 am on Tue, Mar 5, 2013.

    milburnschmidt Posts: 1160

    When you hire a convicted thief this is what you get. I see no explanation why her background was overlooked. As she lied to cover herself this exposed other innocent employees to suspicion and must have caused them untold grief. Like many users she runs and hides behind a cover of turning to religion and counseling like most thieves do when caught. The sob sisters love this and accept them with open arms. Naturally family and friends gather around her and support her and ignore her crimes. By giving her way less than the court could have the court minimised the crime and shows tolerance to embezzlement instead of outrage.

     
  • SamuelStanding posted at 8:29 am on Tue, Mar 5, 2013.

    SamuelStanding Posts: 589

    @VOPOX: Not only will the taxpayer be repaying this $365K but in addition, we will be clothing, housing and feeding her for the next 40 months!

    @cdaterry1 & ceoncernedcitizen: Audits involve pulling a pool of invoices from random vendors, if the invoicing and payment match (not the payment bank account) on legimate accounts (which these three are) then their is no red flag raised. Administration should be looking over distribution reporting and THERE a flag should have been raised, questioning how many employees TRULY were contributing to the vendors.

     
  • milburnschmidt posted at 8:25 am on Tue, Mar 5, 2013.

    milburnschmidt Posts: 1160

    Rita rundwell the financial dierector of Dixon Illinois stole 53 million dollars from the town over 22 years to fund a lavish lifestyle. The towns annual budget was 10 million. These things happem becaiuse there are no checks and balances, Individual departments in city and county government are operated as separate little kingdoms allowing no interference or scruting from other Depts. Its a failing of the head supervisor and elected officials to do the hard work of overseeing and asking tough questions. Outside audits by accountants hire by the commisioners not the head of the Dept who shold have caught this You dont catch embezzlers by checking their check books which you cant and shouldnt you catch and stop them by instituting safegaurds to deter them. The time she will spend is a fraction of that by someone who commits a burglary or robs a store. Penalties for public officials misconduct should be increased and mandatory but then what public official would vote to increase their liability if they commit a crime. Public officials are more upset by their images and clpability than the crime committed. This would not happen if there was a atmosphere of fear of getting caught. The top administrator should resign since the problem was not caught.

     
  • cdaterry1 posted at 8:16 am on Tue, Mar 5, 2013.

    cdaterry1 Posts: 56

    It is time to change the "outside independant auditors" - NOW - and not listen to the auditors "we can't catch everything" nonsense....$350k is a large amount....obviuosly the auditors internal control tests were irrelevant....time to change auditors NOW!

     
  • stebbijo posted at 7:50 am on Tue, Mar 5, 2013.

    stebbijo Posts: 49

    @ancienttemplar - You would absolutely think they would 'audit' Carroll's own personal finances and find out if she wrote large personal checks and to whom or took out large cash sums. But, why bother - they might find something, too much work. Obviously, Carroll is not breathing a word for some reason. It stinks and it's right in our faces. They called this a federal investigation? A petty pickpocket would get more time.

     
  • I Carry posted at 7:39 am on Tue, Mar 5, 2013.

    I Carry Posts: 530

    #1: Carroll got off easy!!!!! A message should have been sent by OUR court system that this behavior is not allowed.
    #2: Carroll should have been in jail from the day she was exposed! She should have not been allowed to set in her own chair or eat her good food at the house. She should have had to sit on the cold stainless steel stool in the pods, and eat the green/blue hot dogs.
    #3:$395,000.00 paid back? If she has has a reputation and history of fraud, how is she going to amass that money? That's like stating that I can get better looking over time. We will not see to much of that money returned.
    #4: NOT ALL PUBLIC EMPLOYEES ARE LAZY OR BAD PEOPLE. It is embarrassing to see one go foul. People like Carroll make trust a forgotten word. Bad Carroll--Bad, Bad!! Carroll needs to do the time, pay back all the money, then go away. Far away.

     
  • ancientemplar posted at 7:32 am on Tue, Mar 5, 2013.

    ancientemplar Posts: 1268

    Stebbijo, you would think that at least they would have looked at her checking account to discover how she spent her money over the years, wouldn't you think? Maybe they didn't bother. Must have busy on violent crime?

     
  • concernedcitizen posted at 7:22 am on Tue, Mar 5, 2013.

    concernedcitizen Posts: 2530

    "Nobody but the defendant created this situation," Assistant U.S. Attorney Traci Whelan said,................."

    Try again. Had Gabriel, MacDonald, Tymesen and Magnuson/McHugh done their jobs this may have never happened or may have been exposed BEFORE it ever got to that amount.

    So for ASSistant U.S. Attorney Traci Whelan to make such an ASININE comment shows that SHE also needs to be fired.

     
  • stebbijo posted at 7:02 am on Tue, Mar 5, 2013.

    stebbijo Posts: 49

    Gotta love this one, "Nobody but the defendant created this situation," Assistant U.S. Attorney Traci Whelan said, adding that how Carroll spent the money remained "unknown and unexplained."

    Now that is some investigation! Our Secret Service and local sheriff's department did a bang up job following the money and it is all still a mystery. Unbelievable. The taxpayer loses again. Nothing new here.

     
  • voxpop posted at 5:36 am on Tue, Mar 5, 2013.

    voxpop Posts: 738

    Not a bad deal really. About $10k for each month in jail. No one expects this fool to pay back even one nickel, do they? If you're caught dealing drugs law enforcement can take everything you own. Did the city confiscate everything this woman touched? All her bank accounts, her house, car? This woman should be lucky to walk out of jail with the clothes on her back. My guess is the taxpayer gets stuck paying for her crime, not her or her family.

     
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