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Crime
Palm Coast Tuesday, Apr. 30, 2019 4 months ago

Tax Collector’s Office ex-employee stole more than $20,000, according to Sheriff's Office

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A warrant has been issued for the arrest of Deborah Thomas, 60.
by: Guest Writer

A former Tax Collector’s Office clerk stole $21,134 in customer money between 2011 and July 2018 by taking cash for ambulance services, but then never depositing it, according to the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office.

Former ambulance specialist Deborah Thomas, 60 and now living in Tennessee, is being charged in connection with the crimes committed between February 2014 and her July 2018 retirement, as those crimes are within the statute of limitations, according to the FCSO. The money stolen in that time frame totaled $16,418.

“Anyone that takes one penny of taxpayer dollars illegally needs to be dealt with. I’m just really disappointed that something like this should happen. It’s very unfortunate. … I know law enforcement will do their job do get justice.”

— DONALD O'BRIEN, Flagler County commissioner

“Anyone that takes one penny of taxpayer dollars illegally needs to be dealt with,” County Commissioner Donald O’Brien said. “I’m just really disappointed that something like this should happen. It’s very unfortunate. … I know law enforcement will do their job do get justice.”

Every month within that time frame, according to a Sheriff’s Office report, Thomas took customers’ cash, along with other forms of payment. But every month, she deposited no cash at all with the Tax Collector’s Office.

The theft came to light when Tax Collector’s Office finance employee Gina Allman noticed in June 2018 that a deposit Thomas had made was short $20, according to a Sheriff’s Office report.

Allman notified Assistant Tax Collector Rabeth Nescio.

When Nescio asked Thomas about it, Thomas said it must have been misplaced in her office, and that she’d turn it over as soon as she found it. 

Nescio said she’d help look. The two searched her office and didn’t find it, and Thomas told Nescio that she’s just pay $20 from her own money, then keep the missing $20 when she found it.

The Tax Collector’s Office started an investigation, and determined that Thomas had been stealing for years.

She would receive cash, along with other forms of payment, from customers, then create a “deposit packet” with no cash listed on the deposit, according to the FCSO report.

The Tax Collectors Office contacted Tri-Tech, the company that manages the Tax Collector’s Office’s billing system.

Tri-Tech determined that Thomas had been creating reversal transactions to cover up for the cash she was taking: The system would show that cash had been paid, but the reversal would make it look like the cash was refunded or paid out somewhere else, according to the FCSO report. 

The computer system showed that Thomas had created all the reversals, according to the report.

Thomas had also created new billing codes to hide her actions, according to the report.

The Tax Collector’s Office contacted the Sheriff’s Office.

A detective, John Castanheira, called Thomas on March 12, and she initially denied the theft, but then admitted to taking some money, according to an FCSO news release.

Thomas is charged with grand theft embezzlement, and a judge on April 30 signed a warrant for her arrest and extradition, according to the news release.

“This woman was entrusted as an employee of the Tax Collector’s Office to safeguard and deposit monies due to the county but instead she put the money in her own pocket,” Sheriff Rick Staly said in the FCSO’s news release. “White collar crimes take a lot of time to investigate, but Detective Castanheira investigated the case until he could prove the allegations and theft and obtain a warrant for her arrest.” 

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