Former East Tennessee Water Division Clerk Indicted For Theft And Credit Card Fraud

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Following a review by the Comptroller’s Division of Investigations, the former clerk of the Watauga River Regional Water Authority/North Elizabethton Water Division surrendered to the Carter County Sheriff’s Office this month after being indicted on charges of theft, forgery, official misconduct and credit card fraud.

The Comptroller's review found the former clerk, Lori Beth Feaster, had stolen cash utility collections, made personal purchases with district credit cards and took unauthorized check payments that amounted to tens of thousands of dollars.

Ms. Feaster used some of the agency’s funds to cover personal expenses such as a battery and windshield wipers for her car and an energy efficient front-loading clothes washer. 

In a report released on Thursday, the Comptroller’s investigators detailed how, in just two years, Ms. Feaster stole approximately $44,174 of ratepayer funds while handling and accounting for utility collections at the agency.

Investigators noted that it was Ms. Feaster’s ability to collect money, prepare bank deposits and sign checks on behalf of the agency without sufficient oversight which presented her with the opportunity to steal public funds. She capitalized on that situation by issuing more than $23,000 in checks to herself, taking more than $15,000 in cash utility collections and making more than $4,000 in fraudulent credit card purchases - all the while falsifying agency records to cover her tracks.

Ms. Feaster concealed $23,743 in checks made out in her name by fraudulently recording the payments in the agency’s accounting records as payments to a backhoe vendor. She also shorted cash utility deposits by at least $15,506.  In one instance, Ms. Feaster changed a $6,974.34 bank deposit slip prepared by another employee to $5,974.35 and kept $1,000 for her personal use.

“Theft or misuse of public funds is unacceptable, whether those funds come from tax dollars, utility bills or any other sources,” Comptroller Justin P. Wilson said. “These types of crimes need to be taken as seriously as any other type of theft.”

“The failure to adequately separate financial duties, as was the case here, is the most common weakness in accountability that allows for thefts of public funds to occur,” said L. Rene Brison, assistant director of the Comptroller’s Division of Investigations.  “It is imperative that all public officials and employees put adequate safeguards in place to prevent any single employee from having sole responsibility for each step in the collections and disbursements process.”    

To view the report online, go to: http://www.comptroller.tn.gov/ia/.


Couple With Outstanding Warrants For Theft Arrested Wednesday Night In East Ridge

East Ridge Police responded to the Rodeway Inn 6674 Ringgold Road Wednesday night  regarding suspicious parties possibly checked in using false information. Police had previously identified the suspects as involved in area storage unit thefts.    Police found Ricky Barnett and Jennifer Murray in room 359 of the hotel.  Both were arrested on outstanding warrants. ... (click for more)

Senator David Perdue Statement On Keystone Pipeline Approval

U.S. Senator David Perdue made the following statement on the Keystone Pipeline permit:   “It’s encouraging to see President Trump make building the Keystone Pipeline a priority. This is especially encouraging given that President Obama vetoed the project even when it had support from Democrats and Republicans. President Trump has said job one is getting our economy going, ... (click for more)

Repeal Obamacare, Congressman Fleischmann - And Response (2)

Chuck: I'm writing to express my strong opposition to the plan that is being rolled out by Paul Ryan to replace Obamacare. And as I'm writing this, I'm remembering all the times you and all of your Republican colleagues over the last six years campaigned on REPEALING  Obamacare and used that call to action as the basis for your reelection. And I'm also remembering the ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Scottsboro Boys

There is a good-sized train tunnel that runs under the northern tip of Lookout Mountain, right next to Cummings Highway. It was inside that tunnel on this very weekend 86 years ago, that the worst tragedy in the fabled history of the South was born. This was during the tight grip of the Depression and about two dozen hobos had jumped the train from the time it left Southern Railway's ... (click for more)

Storrs' Two-Hitter Leads Bears Past Patriots 4-0

CLEVELAND, Tenn. – Jefferson County had no trouble scoring runs while winning its first four games to open the high school baseball season. But Bradley Central right-hander Tripp Storrs stopped the Patriots cold Thursday at the Toby McKenzie Baseball Complex in an Ooltewah Invitational game. Storrs threw a masterful two-hit shutout and Bradley manufactured all its runs ... (click for more)

Grundy Co. Gets First Softball Win Over CSAS

Grundy County got its first softball win of the season with a 10-3 victory over CSAS in the Lookout Valley Invitational Thursday evening, but they came up short in the next game in a 10-9 loss to South Pittsburg. The three-day tournament continues with more pool play on Friday at the O’Mary-Conard Field next to Lookout Valley Elementary School while bracket play will take place ... (click for more)