Former Cherryville Finance Director Bonny Verley Alexander has been charged with embezzling more than $435,000 from the city.
Another former Cherryville employee, Jennifer Neal Hoyle, has been charged with embezzling more than $92,900.
Both Alexander, 58, and Hoyle, 34, have agreed to plead guilty, federal prosecutors announced Tuesday.
The charges against Alexander and Hoyle come just three months after the Cherryville Police Department was rocked by scandal when three officers were indicted on public corruption charges.
The Cherryville officers and a Gaston County sheriffs deputy were among six men accused of conspiring to provide protection to trucks carrying stolen goods and cash. Five of the men have pleaded guilty. One has agreed to plead guilty.
Obviously, this investigation has been going on for a long time, Cherryville Mayor Pro Tem Brian Dalton told the Observer on Tuesday. I would guess everybody in our community is glad that its coming to an end, and Im ready for the city of Cherryville to move forward.
City employees spotted the accounting irregularities that led to the charges against Alexander and Hoyle, Dalton said. We just put it in the hands of the people we felt it needed to be in, he said.
Dalton pointed out that Cherryville has a new finance director.
Shes implemented some different policies to make sure something like this never happens again, he said.
Prosecutors would not say Tuesday if the crimes Alexander and Hoyle have been accused of committing were uncovered in the same investigation that led to the charges against the Cherryville police officers.
Alexander is accused of embezzling at least $435,294 of the citys funds from about August 2005 through December 2011, according to prosecutors.
Alexander made weekly payroll payments to herself that were more than 300 percent of her authorized net pay from the city and used city funds to pay for personal expenses, including shopping and travel expenses, prosecutors said.
Alexander issued city checks and forged on those checks the signature of another Cherryville employee who was the authorized signatory on the account, according to prosecutors. Then, after the forged checks had cleared and were returned by the bank, Alexander would remove them from the citys records to avoid detection, court documents show.
Prosecutors said Alexander issued and forged a total of 26 checks from the city totaling approximately $97,000 to pay off personal charges on her American Express card.
Up until her retirement in December 2011, Alexander was employed by the city of Cherryville as its finance director. She oversaw the citys accounting, financial reporting and treasury divisions, as well as the citys revenue collections and customer service departments.
Alexander also was able to process payroll payments to Cherryville employees, direct payments for city expenses, issue checks on behalf of the city, remove canceled checks from the citys records and make adjustments to Cherryvilles electronic accounting systems, prosecutors said.
Alexander is charged with five counts of embezzlement. She has agreed to plead guilty to the charges and faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each count, prosecutors said.
Hoyle, a former senior customer service representative/utility supervisor for the city of Cherryville, has agreed to plead guilty to three counts of fraud for embezzling approximately $92,922 from the city, prosecutors said. She faces a maximum prison term of 10 years and a $250,000 fine for each count.
Hoyle was responsible for collecting and posting utility payments made by Cherryville utilities customers. Hoyle, who reported to Alexander, was terminated in May 2012.
Prosecutors said Hoyle embezzled from the city by taking cash payments made by customers paying their utility bills.
Hoyle would accept the cash payments from the customers and issue paper receipts. She would credit the customers accounts with the payments, keep the cash, and then, using her supervisory override privileges, would go in the computer system and delete the transactions, prosecutors said.
Hoyle, to avoid any potential customer complaints, would create entries in an extra charge journal in which she would write off the cash amount the customers paid so that bills containing the embezzled amount would not be issued, prosecutors said records show.
Hoyles fraud was uncovered when a customer questioned the duplicate charges on her bill. The customer brought in her paper receipt as proof of payment, after Hoyle had failed to convert the customers cash payment as a write off in the extra charge journal, according to prosecutors.
Observer staff writer Cleve R. Wootson Jr. and staff researcher Maria David contributed.