LAPORTE | The state is involved in an ongoing probe into a bag full of taxpayer checks belonging to the LaPorte County treasurer's office winding up in strange hands.
The green bank bag containing about 80 checks written out by property owners to pay their tax bills was found inside a LaPorte County Public Library drop box, according to a LaPorte police report.
Because the bag was from the LaPorte County treasurer's office, LaPorte County police and the Indiana State Board of Accounts are now investigating.
LaPorte County police Chief of Detectives Pat Cicero would not offer specifics or respond when asked if criminal charges might result.
“I'm sure something will be said, eventually, but right now it's way under investigation. That's all I can say,” said Cicero.
According to the police report, an employee of the library at 904 Indiana Ave. found the bag containing the checks and deposit slip inside a book drop box Dec. 28.
The employee left the bag along with note in the office of Fonda Owens, the director of the LaPorte County Public Library system.
Owens after returning to her office three days later turned the bag over to LaPorte police, who released it to an employee of Nancy Hawkins, the LaPorte County Treasurer, according to the report.
The police report did not offer any explanation on how the bag wound up in the box used to return books from outside the library.
“I don't know if the bag was stolen or lost. There was no indication on it,” said LaPorte police Chief of Detectives Tom Thate.
LaPorte County attorney Shaw Friedman said the county commissioners just a few weeks ago were made aware of the investigation and also don't know why the bag didn't make it to the bank deposit.
He did not want to speculate on what the potential outcome of the investigation might be.
“We're trying not to jump ahead of ourselves at this point. We don't even know. What were the circumstances? As you can imagine, the commissioners were surprised, distressed and concerned when they heard about this,” said Friedman.
Hawkins declined to comment citing the pending investigation, but Friedman said it's his understanding the property tax checks have since been cashed.
“To my knowledge, things have been processed,” said Friedman.