HARRISVILLE, W.Va. – A former WVU Extension agent in Ritchie County has pleaded guilty to misappropriating funds and seeking improper reimbursements.
On Tuesday, Circuit Judge Timothy L. Sweeney accepted a felony plea from former WVU Extension Agent Stephanie M. Deem, 39, of Harrisville. Deem entered her guilty plea to an information charging her with fraudulent schemes related to her work with Ritchie County Commission, the Ritchie County Board of Education and the 4-H, according to a press release.
Deem faces a sentencing hearing September 22, where she could be confined in prison 1–10 years and fined up to $2,500.
According to the West Virginia State Auditor’s Office, she will be ordered to make restitution of not less than $6,159.46, according to the plea agreement.
The state auditor’s office said it was appointed as the special prosecutor by the circuit court in January. The auditor’s investigation showed Deem sought and obtained travel and expense reimbursement on 57 occasions from Ritchie County Commission, the Ritchie County Board of Education and/or the WVU Extension Service.
Additionally, Deem misappropriated funds from an ox roast fundraiser and 4-H property rentals, the release states.
The cases were based on an investigation by the State Auditor’s Public Integrity & Fraud Unit, in cooperation with the Ritchie County Sheriff’s Office. State Auditor John B. McCuskey said he is pleased to see forward progress on cases brought by his office.
“This is a great example of the swift justice our office is able to bring. From beginning to end, this case was initiated, investigated, and completed in less than 6 months,” McCuskey said. “This all culminated despite limitation of court proceedings during COVID. The public can be assured we will work tirelessly to hold government officials responsible when they take from the public trust.”
The state auditor’s office monitors all state and local government purchasing card transactions to identify internal fraud. The office is staffed with 14 fraud examiners, fraud monitors, investigators and lawyers, according to the release. Attorneys for the office currently serve as special prosecutors in six counties around the state, prosecuting criminal conduct.
“If anyone knows of any fraud against the state, county, or local government, please call (833) WV-FRAUD or file an anonymous online report at www.wvsao.gov,” McCuskey added.