TN county employee allegedly steals nearly $145,000 to pay off credit card

By Chris Butler | Tennessee Watchdog

NASHVILLE — A former agent with the Jefferson County Finance Office reportedly took nearly $145,000 from taxpayers to pay off her sizable credit card debt, according to an audit state Comptroller Justin Wilson released Tuesday.

Dandridge resident Teresa Crusenberry took out exactly $144,797.95 from county coffers to pay off Kohl’s and four of her other outstanding credit card accounts, the audit said.

The alleged thefts, involving 98 checks, took place between July 2011 and March of this year, according to a statement from comptroller spokesman John Dunn.

DOWNTOWN: The Jefferson County Courthouse in the county seat of Dandridge, Tenn.

“Auditors are awaiting documentation from other vendors, which could result in an additional amount of stolen money,” Dunn said.

Jefferson County grand jurors have already indicted Crusenberry on one count of theft over $60,000 and official misconduct. She is currently awaiting trial, Dunn said.

“Ms. Crusenberry stopped showing up for work on March 13, 2014; however, her employment was officially terminated on March 20, 2014,” according to the audit.

Tennessee Watchdog left a message seeking comment at Crusenberry’s home Wednesday, but she didn’t immediately respond.

Crusenberry allegedly withdrew the following amounts and gave them to these specific credit card companies, the audit said:

  • $77,627.63 to Card Services
  • $58,949.77 to Bank Card Center
  • $4,930.70 to U.S. Cellular
  • $1,817.76 to Kohls.
  • $1,472.09 to Chase Card Services

Creditors refunded exactly $6,564.61 back to the county, the audit said, leaving a final cash shortage of $138,233.34.

Tennessee Watchdog also left two messages seeking comment with County Mayor Alan Palmieri, but he didn’t respond to them Wednesday.

County Finance Director Darrell Helton also didn’t respond to a message Wednesday requesting comment.

Teresa Crusenberry

Helton, though, said in the audit his department has put measures in place to correct the problems that led to this alleged theft.

“We believe the software weakness that was discovered due to this problem was a significant factor in the employee’s ability to misappropriate funds,” Helton said. “This problem has also been corrected. At this point the county has insurance coverage so there will not be a loss of taxpayer dollars.”

State officials assigned a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation agent to help investigate Crusenberry, the audit added.

Contact Christopher Butler at chris@tennesseewatchdog.org

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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