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Ex-employee charged in treasurer’s office crime

A former employee of the County Treasurer’s office is facing four charges in connection with money allegedly stolen from that office.

Mindy Joseph, 30, of 568 Township Road 253, Ironton, has been formally charged with theft over $1,000 but less than $7,500, a felony 5; misdemeanor theft under $1,000 but over $500; identity fraud, a felony 4; and tampering with evidence, a felony 3, according to Assistant Prosecutor Brigham Anderson.

The charges stem from an investigation by the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office. County treasurer Stephen Burcham said he contacted the sheriff’s office on July 20 about the alleged incident.

“It was a discrepancy that came to my attention,” he said.

Burcham said the amount missing from his office is $2,267.49.

“It was limited to two transactions on (the taxes) on a total of four parcels,” he said.

During Burcham’s attempt to resolve the difference, Joseph, who had been with the treasurer’s office for seven years, went on sick leave, Burcham said.

“(The identity theft charge) does not have anything to do with the taxpayers of the county,” the treasurer said. “That is an issue that is outside the missing money from the treasurer’s office. The identity theft was not related to that particular issue.”

According to Sheriff Jeff Lawless, his office had been investigating the identity theft allegations before the alleged theft of money was brought to his attention.

“Another employee of the treasurer’s office had her identity used to obtain a credit card,” Lawless said. “The other employee contacted us about three and a half to four weeks ago. As our investigation continued into that, this information surfaced.”

Anderson declined to give a motive or the method for the alleged theft.

“At this point we can’t discuss those issues,” Anderson said.

According to the Ohio Revised Code, the county treasurer is responsible for any money missing from that office, Burcham said.

“I am extremely concerned about money being correct,” he said. “ … If she doesn’t pay that money back, I have to pay that back. I understand the responsibility and accept that responsibility.

“While we work diligently to make sure all transactions are handled and properly accounted for, we handle about $24 million. This is less than one one/hundredth of a percent. Even being off a penny is unacceptable. We work diligently to ensure the safety of the taxpayers’ money through daily reconciliation and investigation of any discrepancy. This did not go on for a very long period of time.”

Prior to her joining Burcham’s office as a deputy treasurer, Joseph was a constable at the courthouse. She was also a special deputy with the sheriff’s office and has been terminated from that post, Lawless said.

She was terminated from the treasurer’s office on July 23.

Joseph will appear in Ironton Municipal Court at 1:30 p.m. Monday.

This is the second time in the past five years that there has been a theft investigation at the treasurer’s office. In 2008, former employee Rae-Lynn Robinson admitted to taking more than $25,000. Robinson repaid the funds and did not serve any time in jail.