The Smithville Police Department has apparently solved a forgery scheme with the arrest of three people.
Chief Randy Caplinger reports that 22 year old Brittney D. Barnes, 44 year old Mary J. Robb, and 40 year old Randy Caldwell have each been charged with theft under $500. Robb is also charged with forgery.
According to Detective Matt Holmes, Barnes stole a book of blank checks from her great grandmother's home on December 29th at 713 Cill Street and gave it to Caldwell, who in turn handed it over to Robb.
Robb allegedly signed the name of Barnes' great grandmother to at least twenty of the checks and then passed them for more than $4,300 worth of merchandise at stores in several different towns, using a fake drivers license number. According to Detective Holmes, the way Robb conducted the scheme was that she would go into a Wal-mart, for example, and pass a forged check for merchandise. Then she would leave the store and go to a Wal-mart in another town and return most of the merchandise for a refund.
In addition to Wal-mart, Robb is accused of passing the checks at places like Walgreens, Lowe's and Publix, among others in several mid-state towns including Smithville, Murfreesboro, Lebanon, Manchester, Crossville, Sparta, and Cookeville. As a result, other law enforcement agencies may also bring charges against Robb
On Thursday, January 6th, after reviewing surveillance footage of the forgery at the Wal-mart in Smithville, Detective Holmes said he saw a woman as he was leaving the store, who matched the characteristics of the female on the video. She got in a vehicle which left the parking lot, heading south on Anthony Avenue. "I followed the vehicle and it turned around and headed back to Wal-mart. I ran the tag through central dispatch and stopped the automobile and spoke to the woman, Robb, who was a passenger. She told me that she had been in Wal-mart and that she passed checks belonging to someone else. She was arrested and taken to the Smithville Police Department. After admitting to forging a name on about 20 checks, Robb was charged with forgery and theft under $500."
After questioning Robb on Thursday, January 6th, Detective Holmes said he saw Caldwell coming out of the courthouse the same day and picked him up for questioning. Caldwell was subsequently charged in the case.
Detective Holmes said that on January 6th, he reviewed surveillance footage at the Smithville Police Department taken from the Sparta Walgreen store, which showed Robb and Caldwell in possession of the stolen checks. According to Detective Holmes, Caldwell benefitted from the forgery transaction by taking the merchandise and leaving the store.
Barnes was picked up by police the following day on Friday, January 7th at her great grandmother's home and charged in the case.
Meanwhile, in a separate investigation, a 28 year old Smithville woman has been charged with aggravated child abuse after allegedly allowing her 12 year old daughter to smoke marijuana.
Smithville Police Chief Randy Caplinger said Stephanie Fagan is under a $3,500 bond and she will appear in court on January 27th.
According to Detective Matt Holmes, he met Fagan at 829 Gentry Avenue on Wednesday, January 12th while conducting a follow-up investigation on an offense report. She was then transported to the Smithville Police Department for questioning. Fagan allegedly admitted that a few weeks ago she was at her residence with an adult male and that he talked Fagan into allowing the12 year old daughter to smoke a marijuana cigarette with her
Fagan was arrested and charged and the child was removed from her custody by the Department of Children's Services.
The Smithville City Council, last July, voted to ask the state comptroller to conduct an independent audit after Aldermen Steve White raised concerns about something he had seen in the budget, which he did not elaborate on at the time.
"I think that due to some of the issues that we found looking in the budget we need to call for an all out audit from the state comptroller's office", said White. "That way it would be an independent audit. It will cost us a little bit of money but I think it would be profitable for the city in the long run for us to do that.", he said.
Last week, Dennis F. Dycus, CPA, CFE, Director of the Division of Municipal Audit for the state, issued a letter on a report on his findings of "selected records of the City of Smithville", and that letter has been sent to the Mayor and Aldermen.
Mayor Taft Hendrixson acknowledged Monday morning that he and the aldermen have been notified of the audit findings but that there has been no action taken as a result of it.
While the audit report refers to actions taken by City Secretary- Treasurer Hunter Hendrixson, it does not accuse him of a crime or misuse of funds for personal gain.
The report states as follows:
"We have concluded our investigative audit of selected records of the City of Smithville. The purpose of the investigative audit was to address specific allegations primarily related to the city's golf course and swimming pool operations. This investigative audit focused on the period July 1, 2009, through June 30, 2010. However, when warranted, this scope was expanded."
"In August 2008, the City of Smithville entered into a five-year agreement with a private company, Smithville Golf Management, LLC [SGM], to operate the Smithville Municipal Golf and Swim Club [golf course and swimming pool]. The duties and responsibilities for both the city and SGM were detailed in a written contract. However, our investigative audit established that the city had improperly assumed some of the financial burdens that, according to the written
contract, were the responsibility of SGM."
City payment for SGM obligations:
"Our investigative audit identified four city checks, totaling $4,871, issued to pay for city swimming pool operation costs that were apparently obligations of SGM."
"Two city checks, each in the amount of $680, dated April 17, 2009, and April 17, 2010, respectfully, were issued to the Tennessee Department of Health for swimming pool licensing fees. Although both checks had signatures for the mayor and city treasurer, the mayor advised state auditors that he had not signed the April 2010 check. The city treasurer (Hunter Hendrixson) acknowledged to state auditors that, without permission, he had signed the mayor's name to the April 2010 check."
"A city check in the amount of $2,511 dated June 14, 2010, bearing only the signature of the city treasurer was issued to an insurance company for a liability policy related to the city swimming pool."
"A city check in the amount of $1,000 dated June 17, 2010, bearing only the signature of the city treasurer was issued directly to Smithville Golf Management for swimming pool start-up expenses."
The city treasurer told state auditors that the $1,000 payment to SGM was to cover beginning inventory for the concession stand, lifeguard pay, and other expenses related to opening the swimming pool at the start of the summer season. He stated that he issued the checks
to Smithville Golf Management and to the insurance company because SGM was having
financial difficulties and would not have opened the swimming pool for the summer season
without financial assistance."
SGM water usage not metered:
"Our investigative audit also determined that the water account for the city swimming pool was classified as inactive from September 2008 through July 2010. As a result, the water meter was not read and SGM was not billed for any water usage during that period. When asked about the failure to bill SGM for almost two years, the treasurer told state auditors that he was responsible for that decision. On or about July 29, 2010, the city billed SGM $2,702, the city's
calculation for previously unbilled and unpaid water usage related to the use of the swimming pool."
The contract between the City of Smithville and Smithville Golf Management LLC, states: "The Tenant [Smithville Golf Management] herein agrees to pay all utilities for said facility, except the Landlord [City of Smithville] will maintain the tennis courts, the nets and fence, as well as pay the electric bill for the tennis court lights. The Tenant shall be responsible for providing all water to the facility, except the landlord agrees to fill the swimming pool once a year and provide the necessary chemicals for start up each year. The Tenant will be responsible for all fees and charges associated with the operation of the facility, including but not limited to any fees to the Tennessee Department of Health….The Tenant herein shall provide at his sole expense public liability insurance….
"The Tenant shall be responsible for the Smithville Swimming Pool, same to include the hiring of certified lifeguards during all hours of operation….
"We noted that in August 2010, the Smithville Golf Management gave 60-day notice to
city officials that it would terminate its agreement with the city."
On Monday morning, January 17th, City Secretary-Treasurer Hendrixson issued the following prepared statement in response in the state audit findings:
"A week or so before the opening of the pool season I was informed by the lessee, Smithville Golf Management, that their insurance policy on the pool had been dropped and they would not have one in time to open the pool. I took it upon myself to locate a policy but it was more than they could afford so I allocated the money through the City's Golf Course/Swimming Pool checking account which at the time had around $75,000 in it and I also gave them another $1,000 for start up expenses such as lifeguard salaries and any other maintenance repairs needed to open the pool on time. We don't have much to offer our youth recreationally so there was no way I was going to allow the pool to not open, however, I should have gotten the blessing of the Board before taking matters into my own hands", said Hendrixson.
"As far as the issue of the water meter for the pool, the 2008 contract with the lessee states that the City pays for the ‘initial' or first fill up of the pool. The Smithville Golf Mgmt could have used their well reservoir with their chlorinator after the initial fill up but apparently were under the impression that the City would provide all pool water costs. This was an oversight on both the City and Smithville Golf Mgmt's part.", Hendrixson added.