- Associated Press - Friday, October 20, 2017

ALVO, Neb. (AP) - The Nebraska Auditor’s Office has accused a woman of embezzling $265,000 from two small communities and is examining spending at a third village where she worked.

Ginger Neuhart, 60, has been charged with felony theft by deception in Cass County in connection with missing funds from Alvo, a village about 20 miles (32.19 kilometers) east of Lincoln. But she served as a clerk and treasurer for several Nebraska communities, the Omaha World-Herald reported .

The Auditor’s Office this week detailed more than $160,000 it said was misappropriated from the village of Memphis, Nebraska, dating to 2005. A similar letter to Alvo officials outlined $105,000 in unauthorized payments over seven years.

Officials said it’s possible for missing funds to go unnoticed for years in such small communities because audits aren’t required at the village level. State law defines a village as a community with a population between 100 and 800 residents.

Investigators say Neuhart told them last month that she had been altering her paychecks from Alvo, Memphis and Ithaca. She told them she had to do so because she thought her services were worth more, according to arrest records.

The Auditor’s Office also alleged Neuhart presented the village boards with falsified treasurer reports, which led the boards to believe the villages had more money than they did.

Alvo had not been conducting audits because it cost significantly more than what Neuhart was being paid, said Dave Morgan, a member of the Village Board. He also said the village trusted Neuhart.

“I assume people are who they say they are, until something else happens,” Morgan said.

Small communities should require checks to have two or more signatures, bring someone from the outside to review bank records and conduct periodic audits, said Lynn Rex, executive director of the League of Nebraska Municipalities.

“There are definitely protections to take, and there are villages that take them,” Rex said. “Cases like this are demoralizing for other city clerks who do work really hard for the sake of public service.”


Information from: Omaha World-Herald, http://www.omaha.com

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