A former clerk — whom authorities say took money from rural communities in eastern Nebraska — appears to have reached a plea agreement with prosecutors on an embezzlement charge in Cass County.
Ginger Neuhart, 60, of Waverly, Nebraska, is charged with one count of felony theft by deception in Cass County in connection with her duties as clerk/treasurer in the town of Alvo. She is also charged with felony theft and four counts of forgery stemming from her time as clerk/treasurer for the villages of Memphis and Ithaca in Saunders County. The charges followed reviews by the State Auditor’s Office.
According to the publication Cassgram.com, the prosecution and defense are hammering out an agreement.
Defense attorney Craig Wittstruck this week requested a continuance of Neuhart’s trial in Cass County District Court, saying he needed time to work out restitution plans with Cass and Saunders Counties. Cass County Attorney Colin Palm told Judge Michael Smith that he had no objection, and the continuance was granted.
Saunders County Attorney Steve Twohig didn’t rule out a plea agreement, but said his office does not have one in place.
Neuhart’s arraignment in Saunders County District Court is scheduled for Monday. Her next hearing in Cass County is March 26.
“We’re always in negotiations,” said Twohig of Saunders County. “Anytime we can resolve a case without going to trial, we will do that. For now, we are preparing to proceed to trial.”
Neuhart is accused of taking a total of $306,500 from Alvo, Memphis and Ithaca. In September, Neuhart told authorities that she had been altering her paychecks for years because she thought her services were worth more.
Neuhart served as clerk/treasurer for all three villages. The auditor’s review for Memphis found $160,500 in fraudulent payments to Neuhart since 2005. The review for Ithaca showed that the village overpaid Neuhart $41,000 since May 2013.
A similar auditor’s letter to Alvo officials outlined $105,000 in unauthorized payments over seven years. If true, the case would be one of the longest-running embezzlements in recent state history, the Auditor’s Office has said.
The auditor’s letters to the three villages make similar allegations:
Neuhart wrote out checks for the villages’ business, including her own payroll check. She’d write out her monthly salary — $500 in Memphis, $700 in Alvo, $800 in Ithaca — placing the spelled-out amount toward the right side of the line, leaving empty space to the left. Then, after the Village Board chairperson had signed the checks, she’d squeeze in a “one thousand” or “two thousand” in front of the amount, according to the state auditor’s investigation.