HOXIE, AR (KAIT) - A former Hoxie employee admitted to stealing money from water customers, newly released documents revealed.
Keri Smith is charged with theft greater than $5,000 but less than $25,000.
She posted bond and was released from custody on Sept. 12.
Region 8 News obtained the probable cause affidavit, which outlines the investigation. The affidavit was filed on Aug. 30. Region 8 News first reported the investigation in June.
In total, Smith is accused of stealing $20,252.94.
The investigation began, according to court records, on March 22, 2018 after Iberia Bank contacted city officials regarding a deposit by Hoxie Water Department employee Keri Smith. The bank said Smith did not include cash in the deposit which was for money collected for Entergy electric bills.
After being notified, the City Clerk began searching for the cash, but couldn’t find any.
“[The city clerk] also noted that several customers had complained that their water bills were not correct,” the affidavit explained. “The customer complaints were that they paid their water bills and their accounts did not reflect those payments.”
The customers paid in cash.
Mayor Lanny Tinker immediately contacted the city’s accountant and auditor to audit the water department accounts for March 2018.
The auditor found that accounts received cash payments, but those payments were reversed and deleted. The customer’s accounts were then adjusted to cover the missing money. The auditor noted that the cash payments could not be found in the bank deposits.
Once that was uncovered, Mayor Tinker ordered a larger audit.
The audit found that missing cash payments extended back to October 2017 - the same month Keri Smith was hired as the water department clerk.
The auditor also found that cash payments for water meters; new customers, and changes in customers' addresses, which had paid in cash, were also missing.
Investigators questioned Smith about the missing money. “Smith confessed to taking cash money from customers, which she then used for her personal use," the affidavit said.
A bench warrant for Smith’s arrest was issued on Sept. 11 and served on Sept. 12.
Court records show that Smith posted bail Thursday morning. She was ordered to appear in court again on Oct. 3, 2018.