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/.


Latest Hamilton County Jail Booking Report

Here is the latest jail booking report from Hamilton County: ABERNATHY, LEROY LEE  4003 LAURA LANE CHATTANOOGA, 37407  Age at Arrest: 60 years old Arresting Agency: Hamilton County VIOLATION OF SEX OFFENDER REGISTRY --- ADAMS, CHRISTOPHER RYAN  1100 BROWNS FERRY ROAD CHATTANOOGA, 37419  Age at Arrest: 26 years old Arresting Agency: Chattanooga ... (click for more)

New Hiener Book Of Historic Chattanooga Photos Available At Zarzours

The new Paul Hiener Historic Chattanooga Photos book published by Chattanoogan.com is available at Zarzours Restaurant. Zarzours is located on the Southside on Rossville Avenue behind the Main Street Fire Hall #1. Mr. Hiener, a longtime Chattanooga printer and lifelong resident, collected over 3,000 historic pictures of his beloved hometown. He made some of the photos ... (click for more)

Vehicle Emissions Testing Causes More Pollution Than It Prevents - And Response

While a noble cause to make sure vehicles are operating efficiently with the minimum amount of pollutants, a simple analysis makes it somewhat evident the VET program in Chattanooga causes more pollution that it prevents.  Though I don't know how many vehicles are tested on an annual basis, if you assume an average round trip of 10 miles to the nearest testing station (five ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Our Senseless Divide

If I could change one thing about the schools in Chattanooga, my wish would be that everybody could become good friends. I’m talking about the private schools versus the public schools. The rancor is so bad we hardly ever play in sports anymore and what the loathsome TSSAA has done in recent years to the out-numbered private schools is sinful. My dream would be that there would ... (click for more)

Hixson's Courtney Jones Headed To Hiwassee

Courtney Jones is almost finished with one important segment of her life and she's not wasting any time getting on with the next part. Jones is currently a senior at Hixson High School, but she will graduate next week and heading to Madisonville where she will be playing volleyball at the college level for the Hiwassee Lady Tigers. Jones has been an integral part of Hixson's ... (click for more)

Walker Valley, Soddy Daisy Big Mat Winners

The Walker Valley Mustangs recorded pins in the first five matches and never looked back as they beat host Ooltewah in a prep wrestling match Thursday evening by a resounding 61-12 final. The match began at 120 pounds and James Jur put his team ahead with a first-period pin.  Cameron Dwyer, Ethan West, Dillon Clark and Zeth Haynie followed with pins and it never got any ... (click for more)