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Stories Added - January 2009
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Former MUD employes indicted for theft
Trinity Standard - January 2009
GROVETON – Two former plant officials with the Westwood Shores Municipal Utility District (WSMUD) have been indicted on felony theft charges in connection with more than $200,000 believed stolen from the district.
Former WSMUD Plant Manager Mark Allen Huffman, 45, and Assistant Plant Manager Herbert L. Ragsdale, 62, both of Trinity, were formally charged by a Trinity County grant jury with the first degree felony on Dec. 30.
The indictments were not released to the public until earlier this week.
According to the indictments, the two conducted a “scheme or continuing course of action” between Feb. 17, 2004 and Aug. 8, 2008 that resulted in the theft of “$200,000 or more” from WSMUD.
According to Howard Starling, president of the WSMUD board, the district dismissed both men on Nov. 17 after an investigation uncovered the thefts. They each had been employed by WSMUD for over 12 years.
Starling said that during the four years covered by the indictments, they identified approximately $240,000 as taken.
The district official noted that District Attorney Joe Ned Dean has been working with the district over the past several months to help identify the amounts taken and to investigate the thefts.
“According to the district attorney, he can only prosecute the thefts going back for four years, however, the investigation has indicated that the thefts go back as much as six years,” he said.
During that six-year period, Starling said that more than $300,000 appears to have been stolen.
According to the WSMUD official, the money was stolen in the form of fraudulent purchase orders submitted to the district for equipment such as pumps.
“Purchase orders were submitted for high-priced equipment that was never really purchased,” he said.
Items such like the pumps are installed underground and Starling noted that it was very difficult to determine whether or not a new pump had actually been installed without climbing down into a manhole and looking.
In addition to the indictments filed against the two former WSMUD employees, the grand jury returned an indictment charging Tarence Terrell Simmons with felony possession of a controlled substance.
Simmons was accused of possessing more than one gram of cocaine on Aug. 1, 2008.