Friday, December 17, 2010
Because she’s repaid the stolen money, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster said Thursday he’s dropping his civil lawsuit against a Holts Summit woman and her husband.
Based on guilty pleas, Stacy Griffin-Lowery, a former Missouri Veterans Commission accountant, was convicted in both the Cole County Circuit Court and the U.S. District Court for Eastern Missouri of embezzling money from the commission.
In each case, she was ordered to pay the commission back.
“We believe that the two payments of $17,665 and $90,191 — totaling $107,856 — resolve the direct outstanding losses attributable to Ms. Griffin-Lowery’s theft,” Veterans Commission Director Larry Kay said Thursday afternoon. “We are currently awaiting word from the Federal Office of Probation and Parole regarding how she will complete the 200 community service hours assigned to her.”
The case began in 2008, during a state auditor’s review of state-issued gas cards use in the Office of Administration.
State Auditor Susan Montee and commission officials noted last April that Julie Miller, a certified public accountant and Veterans Commission supervisor, found some questionable charges on Griffin-Lowery’s state-issued procurement and fuel cards, and brought that information to her bosses and to the auditors.
Griffin-Lowery was fired in February 2008 and, after auditors delivered their findings to the Cole County prosecutor’s office, charged with felony stealing in March 2008.
She pleaded guilty to the charges that June, under an agreement that the more than $17,000 reported as missing in the first audit was all she would be liable for.
Kay told reporters last April: “The auditors came in, in April 2008 ... and they searched the left- and right-limits of that scheme all the way to the very end, and were convinced they had it all.”
But, when Montee’s staff did a followup audit at Kay’s request, as part of his taking over in 2009 as executive director following a year-long assignment to Kosovo, they discovered a companion scheme involving credit cards, where Griffin-Lowery reportedly went online as her own supervisor to approve the assignment of several personal credit cards to her name, then later to approve her use of those cards.
That resulted in more than $90,000 being taken, and led to Koster’s filing his civil suit in Cole County last April, seeking a return of the additional money.
“This employee betrayed the trust of the brave men and women served by her agency,” Koster said Thursday. “She has now appropriately taken responsibility for her actions and obeyed the directives of the federal court.”
Montee said both schemes occurred between June 2006 and February 2008, and that no other commission employee was involved.
Because of the 2008 plea agreement in the first state circuit court case, that prevented Prosecutor Mark Richardson from seeking more criminal charges, U.S. Attorney Richard Callahan — a former Cole County prosecutor and circuit judge — won a federal grand jury’s three-count indictment in June for stealing money from the Veterans Commission programs.
After pleading guilty in federal court in St. Louis, Griffin-Lowery was placed on three years probation and ordered to repay all the missing money and do 200 hours of community service.
Thursday afternoon, Kay said: “The Missouri Veterans Commission appreciates the work of the attorney general’s office to ensure that justice has been served, and to recoup the resources that were denied to Missouri’s veterans.”