Theft and forgery charges against Urban County Councilwoman Sasha Love Higgins were sent to a Fayette grand jury Thursday.
WKYT reported that the case against Higgins, a first-term councilwoman, was sent Thursday to the grand jury, which will decide whether the initial charges will stand, change or be dismissed.
Higgins was charged Feb. 8 with three felonies: second-degree forgery, theft by deception and identity theft. If convicted, she could face up to five years in prison. Higgins pleaded not guilty last week. The case stems from an alleged scam to cash more than $5,000 in paychecks from a former employee.
Higgins has not spoken publicly about the allegations but has attended council meetings since she was charged in early February.
Higgins was the general manager at a Hampton Inn in Lexington when Richard Manning, the husband of former hotel employee Maricela Gomez de Manning, filed a fraud complaint, according to court documents. The two had discovered that seven paychecks had been issued in her name after her last day of work in July 2016.
Richard Manning then called Higgins, who reportedly admitted to using the payroll account, according to court documents. Manning gave police a recording of the call.
Pillar Hotels and Resorts confirmed in January that seven paychecks had been issued in Maricela Gomez de Manning’s name after she left the company, according to court documents. The gross amount of the checks was $5,709.88, which totaled $4,226.33 after taxes. The hotel also documented that the work time in the payroll system for the checks was entered by Higgins.
Higgins, 34, is accused of emailing the hotel’s corporate human resources office and asking that money from the paychecks be directed into a MetaBank account, then using the money from that account for her benefit, according to court documents. Attached to the email was a form with Maricela Gomez de Manning’s forged signature. Her name was misspelled on that form, court documents said.
Records showed that $4,226 had been deposited in the MetaBank account, but only $1.50 remained.
Police obtained video and photos showing a black woman, later identified as Higgins, receiving the money, the complaint said.
Hampton Inn officials have said they can’t comment on the case while the investigation is open.
Higgins, who had never held public office, upset incumbent Shevawn Akers in the November election for the council seat representing the 2nd District.
Higgins can remain on the council while the charges are pending. A council committee is rewriting the ethics ordinance, which currently doesn’t address what happens to city officials if they are charged while in office and the charges aren’t related to their elected office.
Higgins is the first sitting city council member in recent memory to be charged with felonies. In 1984, Edgar Wallace was convicted of two misdemeanor drug-related charges in April 1984 but originally was charged with a felony.
Wallace served out his council term.
According to Higgins’ Facebook page, she is hosting a town hall March 28 for 2nd District residents on crime and public safety. Topics will include resident concerns on “auto break-ins, home invasions and auto thefts.”