The Drew County Museum theft case ended Friday when Circuit Judge Sam Pope accepted a guilty plea from Terri Wolfe. Charges against against Beth Thurman were dismissed.
Wolfe, a former treasurer of the Drew County Historical Museum Commission, pleaded guilty to theft of property.
Wolfe stood before Judge Pope Friday morning in Drew County Circuit Court where she pleaded guilty and submitted a 2-page written statement. The statement was not read aloud in court.
Wolfe faced a possible 5 to 20 year prison sentence, but as part of the plea agreement, she paid $156,306 restitution to the Drew County Historical Museum Commission, which oversees the public museum. She was also placed on five years supervised probation. The Drew County Historical Museum Commission recommended that the judge accept Wolfe’s plea.
Charges against Beth Thurman, also a former member of the Drew County Historical Museum Commission, were dismissed.
In a written statement, Wolfe accepted full responsibility for the theft. Wolfe’s statement:
I, Terri L. Wolfe, served as the Treasurer of the Drew County Historical Society and the Drew County Museum between the dates of January 1, 2011 and September 8, 2015.
As the Treasurer of the organization, I had control of and access to the bank accounts of both entities. During that time frame, I knowingly took and exercised unauthorized control over funds of the Drew County Historical Society and the Drew County Museum with the purpose to deprive the Historical Society and Museum of the funds.
I accomplished this by writing a series of checks to myself, my cousin, Elizabeth P. Thurman, and the Jones family (Ricky, Carmen, and Marcus) labeled as either reimbursements for expense made on behalf of the Museum and Historical Society or for labor performed on behalf of the Museum and Historical Society.
The checks were intermingled with checks to the same persons and others for reimbursement for legitimate expenses made on behalf of the Museum and Historical Society and for actual work performed for the Museum and Historical Society. These checks were then either cashed, deposited to my separate bank account, or deposited to one of two joint checking account I maintained with my cousin, Elizabeth P. Thurman.
I also presented financial reports to the Museum and Historical Society, containing the improper expenditures listed as legitimate expenses, in order to hide my actions for the Museum and Historical Society.
I have reviewed the Legislative Joint Auditing Committee Report dated November 22, 2016, regarding this matter.
I do not dispute the Auditors’ conclusion that during my time as Treasurer of these organizations there were a total of $184,806.00 in improper and undocumented disbursements.
Some of these disbursements were for legitimate reimbursement of expenses and work performed, however, because I did not retain any receipts, I cannot state with any certainty what portion of these disbursements are for legitimate items and what part are not. However, I am confident that the value of the checks that were for improper purposes exceeds the amount of $25,000.
As a part of a negotiated plea, I am prepared and willing to reimburse the Historical Society and Museum the sum of $156,306 This is the amount of the total improper and undocumented disbursements found by the Auditor ($182,446), less the amount the Auditor found that I deposited to the accounts of the Museum and Historical Society during the same period of time ($28,500).
Therefore, the amount that I have agreed to reimburse the Museum should be sufficient to cover any possible loss sustained by the Historical Society and Museum during my tenure as Treasurer.
Even though a portion of the funds described were deposited into joint checking accounts belonging to myself and my cousin, Elizabeth P. Thurman, Ms. Thurman was not responsible for nor was she aware of any improper transactions I made from the Museum and Historical Society accounts and deposited into our joint account.
Even though Ms. Thurman technically had access to our joint accounts, as a practical matter, she never saw the account statements. I had switched the accounts to “online banking” and she did not know how to access the accounts online. Because I managed the accounts through online banking, there were no paper copies of the account records and checks sent to our home.
Most of the checks that I wrote to Ms. Thurman from the Museum and Historical Society accounts were deposited without any endorsement. However, I have reviewed four (4) checks that I wrote from the Museum and Historical Society accounts in the name of Ms. Thurman, which purport to have her endorsement on the back. None of these four (4) checks were endorsed by Ms. Thurman. I actually signed her name on the back on those checks, without her knowledge.
Ms. Thurman was not responsible for any of the checks which were cashed. No other member of the Historical Society Board or Drew County Museum Commission was complicit in my actions regarding the funds misappropriated from the accounts.
Drew County and the city of Monticello provide funding for the museum.