State auditor talks about nearly $100,000 missing from Stoddard, New Madrid counties

State auditor talks about nearly $100,000 missing from Stoddard, New Madrid counties
Deborah Cowan (Source: Pemiscot County Sheriff's Office)
Deborah Cowan (Source: Pemiscot County Sheriff's Office)
Mike Robey (Source: Stoddard County Sheriff's Dept.)
Mike Robey (Source: Stoddard County Sheriff's Dept.)

BLOOMFIELD, MO (KFVS) - Sheriffs in both Stoddard and New Madrid counties are under fire after a state audit found nearly $98,000 missing from the two departments.

In one case, the alleged theft went on for about a decade.

These two state audit reports break down the numbers.

In Stoddard County, the state auditor found nearly $14,000 missing.

Here in New Madrid, at least $82,000 is missing.

State Auditor Tom Schweich held news conferences in both counties Tuesday.

In both reports he calls the sheriffs out for the "absence of proper oversight."

However, Schweich says both sheriffs were very cooperative and played a role in finding out how much was taken about how to get it back. He says they are working to make sure nothing like this ever happens again.

He says this type of embezzlement is more common than you might think.

"Unfortunately it's all too common," Schweich said. "You put trust in your employees. You give them a good job, you think that you're helping them feed their families and then they steal from you. It happens all the time and that's what happened here."

So the big question is how did it happen? In New Madrid County, the auditor points his finger at the office manager, saying she was allegedly stealing money.

It happened over a course of ten years from November 2003 to April 2013.

According to the report, nearly $80,000 of cash receipts were not deposited. The audit shows about $2,900 in conceal carry money wasn't deposited.

In Stoddard County, it happens over just more than a year from January 2012 to April 2013.

The audit found 321 receipts were not turned in, totaling more than $15,000.

There was also at least $12,000 taken from inmate accounts and money from commissary purchases was also missing.

The sheriffs say it's unfortunate when this happens especially because it was by people they trusted.

Stoddard County Sheriff Carl Hefner says his department actually found the missing money before the auditor's office and acted immediately.

"One thing I'd like to comment on is the state auditors office didn't find this until we'd already found it," Sheriff Hefner said. "I'd already found it. I'd already gone down and spoke with the person who had taken this money and he confessed to it and told me how much he'd taken and the area where he's taken the money from. I brought him up to jail."

New Madrid County Sheriff Terry Stevens says the person who took the money will have a price to pay.

"We've put safeguards in place and changed policy to where we've got a better check and balance procedure now to ensure that this won't happen again and I just want to say to the public, if you play, you pay," Sheriff Stevens said.

Deborah Cowan faces a felony stealing count in New Madrid County. She was processed through the Pemiscot County Jail due to her New Madrid ties. Cowan will be back in court in early December.

In Stoddard County, Johnny M. Robey faces a lesser felony count of stealing since the dollar amount is much smaller. In September, Robey paid back around $10,000 and was taken off house arrest. He'll also be back in court in December.

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