State police to investigate missing LaPorte County money

2013-07-26T11:35:00Z 2013-07-26T23:39:29Z State police to investigate missing LaPorte County moneyStan Maddux Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
July 26, 2013 11:35 am  • 

LAPORTE | To avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest, a case involving a bag containing tax checks from LaPorte County property owners winding up in a strange place has been turned over to Indiana State Police.

LaPorte County police Chief of Detectives Pat Cicero would not say if the investigation, so far, has revealed any potential for criminal charges. Cicero said he was prohibited from divulging specifics about the case because the probe is ongoing.

According to a police report, the bag from the LaPorte County Treasurer's Office somehow wound up in a book drop box at the LaPorte County Public Library. 904 Indiana Ave. The employee at the library on Dec. 28 found the bag containing the checks along with deposit slips and placed the bag along with a 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 Nancy Hawkins, an employee of the LaPorte County Treasurer, according to the report.

The police report did not offer any explanation on how the bag found its way to the drop box used to return books from outside the library.

Hawkins said there were not a large number of checks in the bag because it was not a major collection period. She said the bag was in her office at one point and the checks, upon their discovery, were deposited into the treasurer's account at the bank.

"They have been accounted for," she said.

Cicero would not say if the investigation has shed any light on how the bag wound up at the library or if there was any criminal intent.

LaPorte County Police started as the lead agency in the case. The Indiana State Board of Accounts has also been involved. Investigators asked state police to take over the investigation to avoid any perception of a conflict of interest or favoritism considering the treasurer's office and sheriff's office are each under the umbrella of county government.

"It's always best to bring in an unbiased third party," said Cicero.

Indiana State Police would not comment on the case.

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