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Archive for Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Former township official’s wife sentenced for embezzlement

February 28, 2006

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A judge on Monday ordered the wife of a local township leader to serve time in prison and in a halfway house for embezzling taxpayer dollars.

In a hearing in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan., Judge Carlos Murguia sentenced Shelley Ausherman to five months in prison and five months in a halfway house, according to U.S. Atty. Eric Melgren's office. Murguia also ordered Ausherman to repay the money she stole from Willow Springs Township, although there was a discrepancy Monday about the exact amount ordered.

Ausherman, wife of former Willow Springs Township Treasurer Bruce Ausherman, admitted in a plea last fall that she stole more than $114,000 during a two-year period by falsifying the township's checks.

Willow Springs is one of nine townships in Douglas County.

It covers about 40 square miles south of Lawrence and provides basic services such as fire protection and road maintenance.

Between October 2002 and December 2004, Shelley Ausherman wrote checks on the township's account payable to "T.C." the initials for her farm, Tauy Creek and deposited them in her personal bank account, according to court records.

When the checks eventually were returned to the Aushermans by the township's bank, she concealed the theft by writing over the letters "T.C." to make it appear the checks had been written to other businesses.

The case was investigated by the FBI. It was charged in federal court because, in 2004, Willow Springs received a $69,943 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Despite the repeated thefts, Ausherman entered a plea to just one count of theft from a program receiving federal funds. That charge relates to a $7,212 check she wrote in October 2004.

As of Monday, none of the money had been repaid to the township, said Suzanne Evinger, who replaced Bruce Ausherman as township treasurer after he resigned. Evinger said Shelley Ausherman had been ordered to pay $126,755 in restitution, but information from the U.S. Attorney's Office indicated the amount ordered was $26,755.

Shelley Ausherman's attorney, Robin Fowler, did not return phone calls seeking comment. Fowler previously said Ausherman regretted her conduct and intended to repay the amount stolen.

Fowler also said Bruce Ausherman "had no knowledge of and no participation in any of this activity."

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