HAMMOND | A former Merrillville Town Court clerk pleaded guilty Wednesday in Hammond federal court, admitting to stealing bond money paid to the town court and filing a false tax return in 2009.
Virlissa Crenshaw, 42, of East Chicago, was indicted last week and has signed a plea agreement that would require her to pay $176,763 to the town of Merrillville and $55,203 to the Internal Revenue Service.
U.S. District Court Judge James Moody accepted Crenshaw's guilty pleas at Wednesday's hearing, but held off on ruling on the plea agreement until sentencing.
In the proposed plea agreement, the U.S. government agrees not to pursue criminal tax charges against Crenshaw's spouse for tax years 2007-2010, federal court records show.
Crenshaw calmly answered Moody's questions throughout the hearing, frequently wiping her eyes with tissues.
When asked why she chose to plead guilty, Crenshaw told Moody, “Because I am guilty.”
Allegations against Crenshaw came to light last year when an Indiana State Board of Accounts audit accused Crenshaw of diverting $310,325 in bond payments.
However, the $176,763 amount is what U.S attorneys can prove Crenshaw owes to the town based on evidence, Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip Benson told Moody on Wednesday.
Crenshaw faces a potential sentence of up to 10 years and a maximum fine of $250,000 on the charge of theft from a local government and up to three years and a maximum fine of $100,000 on the count of filing a false tax return.
In Crenshaw's initial hearing that took place Wednesday before her plea hearing, U.S. District Court Magistrate Andrew Rodovich set a $20,000 unsecured bond for Crenshaw.
Crenshaw was not taken into custody Wednesday, according to her attorney, Jerome Flynn.
A sentencing date was not set on Wednesday.