MONROE COUNTY, Ind. - A former township trustee accused in one of the state’s largest cases involving misappropriated public money will avoid prison time, for now.
The Call 6 Investigators have learned Heather Cohee of Benton Township has pleaded guilty to two counts of theft, official misconduct and obtaining a controlled substance.
Cohee’s sentence will be deferred for two years while she completes a drug treatment program.
Police say she stole a prescription pad and used it to get hydrocodone from pharmacies, and used taxpayer money for personal expenses.
Cohee resigned in March 2012 and in June 2013, the state of Indiana received a $362,115.97 against Cohee.
According to drug court administrator Steve Malone, the former trustee could face jail time if she violates the condition of her drug treatment.
Whether Cohee will have to go to a facility or live at home will be determined by the court, Malone told Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney.
As part of her drug treatment, Cohee will have to remain sober and submit to regular drug and alcohol tests.
The $362,115 civil judgment amount against Cohee is among the top six judgments entered against defendants in State Board of Accounts audit lawsuits since January 2009.
The judgment amount is more than three times the amount of the financial loss suffered by the state, according to the document
“When elected officials violate the public trust and embezzle taxpayers’ money, the Indiana Attorney General’s Office will aggressively pursue civil prosecution to recover public funds. Having obtained this treble damages judgment, we will initiate collections against this defendant to obtain any financial assets and reimburse the public treasury,” Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller told Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney in June.
The Call 6 Investigators recently reported the State Board of Accounts found undocumented payments including credit card purchases for a gym membership, gas and food.
Cohee resigned amid criticism that she hired her husband and daughter to perform tens of thousands of dollars of work for the township without proper documentation.
Current trustee Michelle Bright told the State Board of Accounts the township continues to deal with financial and legal ramifications as a result of Cohee’s actions, including issues with the Internal Revenue Service and severe revenue shortfalls.
“We estimate it will take several years before the township is able to fully recover,” read the statement from Trustee Bright.