DUBOIS – A DuBois woman accused of misappropriating more than $16,000 from a Clearfield County agency waived her right to a preliminary hearing during Centralized Court.
Colette Renee Hamaker, 41, 35 Mustique Court, 20 Treasure Lake, DuBois, faces felony charges of theft by deception and access device fraud. Her bail is $10,000, unsecured.
The charges stem from incidents that occurred while she was employed as the executive director of Community Connections of Clearfield and Jefferson Counties, formerly known as Clearfield-Jefferson Community Mental Health Center, according to a previously published article. She allegedly used company debit cards to purchase gift cards, pay for lunches and time at a local spa.
According to the affidavit of probable cause, police met with the Clearfield County Commissioners on Jan. 30, 2013 regarding a possible theft from the organization.
Hamaker was in charge of case management and budgeting. She had been employed by the county from 2004 until she was terminated Jan. 18, 2013. An audit for Community Connections in 2011 discovered a discrepancy of $4,000.
The commissioners asked Hamaker in February of 2012 to stop using debit cards issued to Community Connections and to cancel them. All employees were advised to use credit cards only.
Based on recommendations of outside auditors, a formal credit card usage policy was established. Hamaker signed an acknowledgement of the policy March 1, 2012. It required receipts and descriptions of the business purpose of any expenditure. The employee debit card was to be closed and no longer used.
In December of 2012, the commissioners discovered receipts proving Hamaker was still using the debit cards to make “questionable” purchases, including lunches and for the Day Spa DuBois.
The commissioners met with Hamaker Jan. 9, 2013, and confronted her about the discrepancies and questionable purchases. Hamaker said she must have gotten the business debit card mixed up with her personal card. When asked why she did not cancel the cards as asked, Hamaker did not have an answer.
In March of 2013, police met with a forensic accountant. He said the records showed an unusual amount of gift cards and gift certificates being purchased by Hamaker. The expense reports show the gift cards and certificates were for employee incentives.
He asked police to interview employees to see if they received any of the cards or certificates. He also suggested checking with Marnie’s Salon and Spa, since there were purchases made at that business on the company debit card by Hamaker.
Officers spoke to several of the employees who said they received gift cards at various times for Christmas, birthdays, secretary’s day and after the office was moved.
Melissa Terwilliger was interviewed and told police she had asked Hamaker for Sheetz cards in the amount of either $300 or $500 for the Suicide Prevention Walk, but when Terwilliger went to pick them up, Hamaker said she did not have them and told Terwilliger to have another employee, William Mendat, get the cards using his credit card. Terwilliger said it was rumored that Hamaker used the cards for herself.
On July 16, police spoke with Marnie Brubaker, owner of Marnie’s Salon and Spa. She provided two receipts where purchases were made by Hamaker on her company debit card. The first, dated July 27, 2011, was for $815.62. Brubaker said $627.20 of that amount was from a previous check from Hamaker that had bounced. The rest of the amount was for services obtained that day.
The second receipt was dated Dec. 16, 2011, for $611.40. Brubaker said $546.21 of that was from another previous check from Hamaker that had bounced. The rest was for purchases from the boutique. Brubaker said Hamaker was a friend and she did not do anything when the checks bounced, but waited until Hamaker came in to pay what was owed.
On Oct. 19, officers received the final report from the auditor that determined that Hamaker was issued both a debit card and credit card as administrator of Community Connections. In 2011, Hamaker reimbursed the agency for a number of personal charges made on the debit card.
Auditors discovered during the audit of the fiscal year ending June 20, 2012 that a number of charges had been made by Hamaker to the agency debit and credit cards that were not properly documented. Because the lack of documentation could result in an audit finding and possible return of funds to federal agencies, the auditors classified the charges as “reimbursements receivable.”
The auditor found 157 charges, which either had no documentation, were for department stores and other vendors, which would not have been made by an administrator in the normal course of the agency’s business or charges previously admitted as personal and reimbursed to the agency by Hamaker for which no documentation was provided.
He found two personal bills for electrical service for Hamaker’s home, a purchase of a Christmas tree, two charges to Marnie’s Salon, which documentation shows were used to cover bounced checks written by Hamaker, three Wal-Mart gift charges that Hamaker claims were not made by her but were not disputed and an additional gift card from Marnie’s Salon and Spa, purportedly for a gift certificate to an employee, but which the employee said had a value of no more than $50.
There were also charges for department and grocery stores for which there was no apparent business purpose and charges from vendors, which Hamaker had previously reimbursed the agency.
Based on documentation provided and review of transactions, it was determined that a total of $16,282 in funds had been misappropriated by Hamaker from Community Connections.