Handcuffed woman

A former employee of the Stone County Utility Authority has been arrested and charged with embezzlement.

State Auditor Shad White announced Tuesday that special agents from his office had arrested Shellie Dickens [aka Shellie Martin], former administrative assistant for the authority, after she was indicted by a grand jury assembled by Joel Smith, District Attorney for the Mississippi 2nd District.

At the time of her arrest, Dickens was issued a $13,492.12 demand letter which accounts for investigative costs and interest.

She is accused of embezzling more than $6,000 from December 2016 to May 2017 by taking cash from individuals who were paying their utility bills.

She allegedly attempted to conceal her actions by manipulating computer records. When accounting inconsistencies were noticed, office management contacted the auditor’s office.

“We found what was going on, so she was called in and questioned and she resigned,” said Dick O’Neal, chairman of the SCUA board. “We reported our findings to the state auditor’s office and assisted the district attorney in the investigation.”

Apparently, the amount of cash used to pay utility bills is a strong temptation. 

“This is the second case in two months that the auditor’s office has concluded involving embezzlement from a utility office,” White said in a statement released to the press. “Water and sewer customers around the state deserve better. I encourage anyone who has a tip regarding illegal activity in these kinds of offices to come forward to my office now.”

A $50,000 surety bond covered Dickens’ employment at SCUA.  A surety bond is similar to insurance designed to protect taxpayers from embezzlement and corruption. Dickens will remain liable for the full amount of the demand in addition to criminal charges. If convicted, she faces up to 10 years in prison and $5,000 in fines. The case will be prosecuted by Smith’s office.

Suspected fraud can be reported to the Auditor’s office online any time by clicking the red button at www.osa.ms.gov or via telephone during normal business hours at 800-321-1275.

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