Former Bluefield CFO accused of stealing money from city - WVVA TV Bluefield Beckley WV News, Weather and Sports

UPDATE: Former Bluefield CFO accused of stealing money from city

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BLUEFIELD (WVVA) - A former chief financial officer of the City of Bluefield has been accused of stealing approximately $5,000 from the city.

City attorney Brian Cochran confirmed the allegations against Claude Crigger to WVVA News following a special-called meeting of the city's Board of Directors Tuesday morning.

Cochran says the West Virginia State Police were contacted by city officials after information was received regarding the possibility of embezzlement.

On Dec. 14, the State Police informed City Manager Jim Ferguson that their investigation concluded that the former CFO had illegally converted city finances for his own personal use.

The case has been turned over to Mercer County Prosecutor Scott Ash.

Crigger had resigned his position with the city in November, following a meeting with Cochran, Ferguson and Mayor Linda Whalen regarding penalties levied by the Internal Revenue Service against three city bank accounts.

The penalties were associated with late payments and filings of employee payroll taxes

It was during the investigation into these penalties that information was learned of the possible embezzlement.

WVVA's Stephanie Crace was at city hall Tuesday and will have more on these developments this evening on WVVA News at 5 and 6.

Following is the full news release from Cochran on the situation:

On Thursday, November 15, 2012, it was brought to the City Administration's attention that the Internal Revenue Service had levied three City bank accounts for penalties associated with late payments and filings of employee payroll taxes.  On Friday morning, November 16th, City Manager Jim Ferguson, Mayor Linda Whalen, and I met to review the IRS tax levy and we also communicated with the IRS to investigate this situation further. 

On Monday, November 19, 2012, the City Manager and I met with the City's Chief Financial Officer.  As a result of this meeting, the CFO submitted his resignation, effective immediately.  During this meeting, it was discovered that in April 2012, the CFO had received previous notice from the IRS that the City would incur this penalty and that the CFO failed to disclose this information to anyone in the City Administration.  Although the failure to disclose this important information resulted in the City's inability to exercise any possible appeal procedures, the City is currently and actively seeking relief from these penalties of approximately $14,000.00. 

In connection with investigating the IRS issue, the City received additional information of possible theft of City money.  Once this information was confirmed, the City immediately contacted the West Virginia State Police and requested an investigation be conducted as quickly and as thoroughly as possible.  On Wednesday, December 14, 2012, the West Virginia State Police contacted Mr. Ferguson and informed him that they have determined through their investigation, which included an interview with the former CFO, that the former CFO had illegally converted City finances for his own personal use.  The City is continuing to review all of its accounts and finances, and at this time, it appears that approximately $5,000.00 in cash has been embezzled.  The City has contacted Mercer County Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ash concerning this situation.  The results of the State Police investigation, as well as any additional information uncovered by further financial auditing of the City's accounts, will be promptly presented to the Prosecuting Attorney's Office for further action.

The City is deeply troubled by the former CFO's breach of his fiduciary duty and trust to the citizens of Bluefield.  Unfortunately, crimes such as this are not easily detectable while they are occurring, even with numerous checks and balances in place to deter this type of conduct.  However, City Manager Jim Ferguson and Mayor Linda Whalen took immediate and aggressive action in response to these initial allegations.

I believe Mayor Whalen and Jim Ferguson should be commended for their integrity and professionalism for their prompt and aggressive actions taken in response to this isolated circumstance.  A thorough review of the City's system of checks and balances will be completed in the City's continuing efforts to prevent any future incidences of this type of misconduct.  

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