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HAMMOND — A federal judge is sending a Merrillville woman to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to determine if she is mentally competent to stand trial on charges she stole hundreds of iPads from the city of Gary.

U.S. District Court Judge Philip P. Simon ordered an in-custody psychiatric examination of Monique Bowling, also known as Monique S. Bowling-Boyd, 45, of Merrillville.

She is pleading not guilty to federal theft charges on allegations she stole more than 1,000 Apple iPads from the city of Gary, and stole the identify of an unidentified man, who previously lived with her until he died in September 2010, to continue collecting and spending his pension checks.

She must surrender to federal authorities next month and undergo examination and tests expected to last about 30 days, before a government expert renders an opinion on whether she can be tried at some future date.

Bowling is pleading not guilty to accusations she used her former position in Gary's Information Technology Department to carry out an elaborate fraud scheme involving nearly 900 iPad Air tablets and other electronics between Jan. 1, 2012, and May 12, 2015.

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The state is suing her to recover $1.4 million, plus damages, over the misappropriation of public money in connection with the alleged computer device theft.

Her lawyer, P. Jeffrey Schlesinger, said Bowling isn't speaking to him or anyone, making it difficult for her to assist his efforts to defend her against the federal felony counts that carry a maximum penalty of 30 years imprisonment.

Magistrate Judge John E. Martin last January first ordered the defendant to undergo an intensive observation that would require her to be in federal custody.

Her lawyer initially requested Bowling remain free and be examined by an expert of her attorney's own choice, but dropped that demand during a hearing Thursday before Judge Simon.

The Indiana State Board of Accounts alleges Bowling used falsified or duplicate city invoices to wrongfully purchase hundreds of thousands of dollars in computer equipment now missing. Indiana State Police found Apple laptops and other computer equipment belonging to Gary in Illinois.

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Lake County Reporter

Bill has reported in Lake County since 1972 after graduating from Indiana University. He has worked for The Times since 1997, covering the courts and local government during much of his tenure. Born and raised in New Albany, Ind., he is a native Hoosier.