Former CCSO bookkeeper charged with theft, forgery, computer fraudby J.D. Bailey on 08/02/22
A former Columbia County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) bookkeeper is awaiting trial for theft, forgery, and electronic fraud after a recent audit of the county found financial discrepancies in department.
The accused former CCSO worker, Cassandra N. Atkinson, was arrested June 6 after a months-long investigation into the matter, according to Columbia County Sheriff Mike Loe. The Magnolia resident is alleged to have stolen just north of $32,000 over a 21-month period while employed as an office clerk at the local law enforcement agency. The 42-year-old has been charged with theft of property over $25,000, forgery, and computer fraud, according to CCSO records.
The matter was brought to the public’s attention this week during a Columbia County Quorum Court discussion on the county’s audit findings from two years ago. According to Loe, the alleged criminal activity was discovered last fall.
“We had an audit in September of 2021, and it showed the bookkeeper had embezzled funds starting in September of 2020,” he said Monday. “On September 15 of last year, (Atkinson) was terminated immediately -- by me.”
The county sheriff also noted that the proper authorities were contacted last fall, as soon as he was notified of the audit issues.
“I notified the prosecuting attorney’s office, I notified the Arkansas State Police criminal division, and I notified the county judge by phone when that happened,” Loe added.
Any arrests in the matter were delayed until February -- after the 2021 audit’s final results were completed, according to the sheriff. Once the state’s audit procedures were finished, the Arkansas State Police investigation began, and Atkinson was taken into custody in early June.
Loe stated Monday that, after meeting recently with the local prosecuting attorney, a trial for the former CCSO employee should be underway next spring.
“I anticipate it will be in March, April, May -- or somewhere around then,” he added.
Further public comments on the matter this week were limited, but Columbia County Circuit Court records show that Atkinson’s first appearance in court was held on July 27.
According to a court filing from 13th Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Jeffrey Rogers, the former CCSO office clerk is alleged to have stolen a total of $32,478 from the county’s law enforcement office from Jan. 1, 2020, through Sept. 15, 2021. The prosecutor, in his arrest warrant request, accused Atkinson of swiping funds from the law enforcement agency's fine and bond accounts, then covering her tracks via CCSO's internal computer system.
“The defendant, who was in charge of receiving, receipting, crediting, and depositing money for bond and fines due to the Columbia County Sheriff’s Department, forged accountings, receipts and deposit slips for funds and payments; however, instead of depositing the payments into the proper bond and fine accounts with the Sheriff’s Department, she stole and kept for her benefit the amount stated above,” the warrant letter said. “Additionally, the defendant used the Columbia County computer system used for maintaining and accounting of such funds to conceal the theft of the payments and fraudulent accountings.”
In all, Atkinson is facing three felony counts for her alleged actions.
She is currently out on bond, according to Loe.