Crime

Wayne County clerk indicted

The county clerk in Wayne County stole nearly $140,000 in her first two years in office, a grand jury charged Friday.

Melissa Turpin, 46, was indicted on four felony counts. State police arrested her not long after, authorities said.

The grand jury charged Turpin with two counts of theft for allegedly taking $87,056 in 2007, her first full year in office, and $52,930 in 2008.

That charge is a Class D felony punishable by one to five years in prison for a conviction.

The grand jury also charged Turpin with two counts of abuse of a public trust involving between $10,000 and $100,000, a more serious Class C felony with a sentence of five to 10 years.

The abuse charge carries a higher potential sentence because of the amount of money involved, according to the statute.

The alleged thefts listed in the indictment mirror the findings of the two most recent state audits of Turpin's office.

Those audits said Turpin had a total deficit in her official accounts of $139,986 for 2007 and 2008.

More than $118,000 of the shortfall occurred because the office took in money that was not then deposited in the bank. The money is missing, Auditor Crit Luallen said in a prior interview.

The rest of the deficit resulted from more than $21,000 in spending that auditors said was poorly documented or not proper, including thousands that Turpin paid her husband for painting, cleaning and other labor at her office.

Luallen's office referred the audit findings to state police. Detective Jim Whitaker presented evidence to the grand jury.

Turpin was a deputy clerk for several years before winning election as clerk and taking office in 2007.

County clerks collect a wide range of fees and taxes that help fund state and local government, so a lot of money passes through their offices.

An attempt to reach Turpin for comment after she was charged was unsuccessful.

In an earlier interview, when an audit showed an $87,056 deficit in her office from 2007, Turpin said she didn't think anyone in her office had stolen the money.

Friday, Turpin posted a $100,000 property bond and was released from jail at 12:30 p.m., according to a notation on the warrant for her arrest.

She is scheduled to be arraigned Aug. 18.

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