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Ex-township trustee charged with theft, official misconduct and ghost employment

Tara Hancock was trustee in Ripley Township
Posted: 1:11 PM, Feb 07, 2020
Updated: 2020-02-07 15:57:55-05

CARTHAGE — Rush County prosecutors have filed six felony charges against a former township trustee accused of stealing taxpayer money.

Tara Hancock, former Ripley Township trustee, is charged with four counts of theft, one count of official misconduct and one count of ghost employment.

She was arrested at her home Friday morning.

The investigation and charges allege that former township trustee Tara Hancock, 36, misused and misappropriated public funds totaling $17,000 for the personal gain of herself and her husband.

Current Ripley Township trustee Andrew Ingersoll told RTV6 Hancock’s term ended in 2018, and he became concerned when he found inconsistencies and “questionable items” in those documents.

Ingersoll then contacted the Indiana State Board of Accounts who began an audit.

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The audit raised questions about Hancock and former township investigator Jonathan Hancock.

The State Board of Accounts is asking the Hancocks to repay $37,159.25 in misappropriated or mismanaged taxpayer money.

The State Board of Accounts questioned $915 of the Hancocks' phone and internet expenses that did not include documentation distinguishing township use from personal use.

Auditors criticized thousands of dollars in cash withdrawals.

“No evidence was provided to support the validity of these payments,” read the audit.

The State Board of Accounts also questioned $1,500 in expenses that did not have any documentation including a locksmith, a gazebo, cemetery care, snow and ice removal, mowing and maintenance.

Between Jan. 1, 2015 and Dec. 31, 2018, Tara Hancock received $3,659.90 in excess salaries and Jonathan Hancock received $1,300 in excess salary.

Tara Hancock used her home as the township office and received $1,170 in excess of the office rent appropriated by the township board.

The township also racked up $3,029.50 in penalties and interest to the United States Treasury for failing to pay employer’s quarterly taxes due for tax periods in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

The township also racked up a $365.42 late fee because a utility bill was not paid on time.

The State Board of Accounts also requested the Hancocks pay $4,329.96 for special investigation costs racked up by the state as a result of inadequate bookkeeping practices.