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PRICE — Prosecutors have charged Carbon County's emergency management director with 20 counts of misusing public money in an ongoing probe that is expected to be joined in the coming days by agents from an FBI unit that specializes in the investigation of public corruption cases.
The charges against Jason Thomas Llewelyn are all third-degree felonies and represent 20 unauthorized purchases he made with his county-issued credit card in July, according to Carbon County prosecutor Jeremy Humes. The purchases total $2,790.65, charging documents show.
"We had to be careful that we didn't exclude any criminal conduct," Humes said, explaining why Llewelyn is facing multiple third-degree felony charges instead of a single second-degree felony.
Prosecutors and investigators said Wednesday they believe the unauthorized purchases Llewelyn allegedly made in July represent only a fraction of the public money he spent for personal use.
"The investigator on this case is finding a credit card purchase, he's finding where and when that was made, how much it was, and then he's finding the exact item that was purchased to see if it was used legitimately or illegitimately," Carbon County sheriff's detective Wally Hendricks said.
The process has consumed countless hours in the week since Llewelyn's arrest because investigators have recovered "hundreds of items" from his houseboat at Lake Powell and his home in Helper, Hendricks said.
"As a department head, (Llewelyn) had more free rein with his budget and he didn't have as much oversight as a regular employee," Hendricks said. "What we're doing is a forensic accounting."
That forensic accounting began after someone in the Carbon County Auditor's Office raised questions about some of Llewelyn's recent purchases and brought those concerns to the attention of the sheriff's office.
"We found some questionable purchases that led to an avalanche of other suspicions," Hendricks said.
To help investigators wade through months of past credit card statements, the county has asked for assistance from the FBI's Public Corruption Unit in Salt Lake City, according to Hendricks and Humes.
FBI spokesman Todd Palmer said he could not comment on whether the bureau has agreed to join the investigation, but Humes said there is "a fair chance" Llewelyn could ultimately face federal charges.
"Much of the budget the emergency management department operates with comes from federal grants," Humes said, adding that FBI agents have already traveled to Price for an initial briefing on the investigation and are expected to return next week.
Hendricks said Carbon County Sheriff Jeff Wood hasn't set a timetable for when the investigation should be finished.
"It's going to take as long as it takes to be thorough," Hendricks said. "If there's a question that needs to be answered, we're going to look till we get the answers."
Llewelyn, is a certified peace officer, a 10-year veteran of the Carbon County Sheriff's Office and a member of the Helper City Council. The county placed him on unpaid administrative leave when he was arrested on Aug. 24.
Helper city officials declined to comment Wednesday on the allegations against Llewelyn, saying they haven't spoken with him since his arrest. Sheriff's investigators declined to comment on whether there is any evidence that Llewelyn misused city funds.
Llewelyn made his first court appearance Wednesday via video feed from the Emery County Jail, where he is being held in lieu of $85,000 bail. He asked the judge for a public defender, a request that will be addressed at a Sept. 8 court hearing in Price.