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OGDEN — A former financial analyst for the Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind was charged Thursday with stealing more than $67,000 from school accounts since 2011.
Leslie Sue White, 44, of Ogden, is charged in 2nd District Court with communications fraud and two counts of unlawful use of a financial transaction card, all second-degree felonies, as well as third-degree felony theft.
White's alleged fraud was outlined in a report released by the Office of the Utah State Auditor in July, but she was named publicly for the first time Thursday.
It wasn't until White's job at the Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind ended in January that the fraud was discovered, court documents say. She was fired in April. Charges say she carried on a financial scheme beginning in November 2011 and continuing through early this year.
"Funds were misappropriated, reports were falsified, documents were missing, tax exemption was used improperly, and there were untimely deposits of cash receipts," the charges state.
White allegedly spent $6,674 in unapproved funds at Sam's Club on gift cards, $5,464 for electronics, $1,393 on gasoline and $657 for cigarettes. She is also accused of fraudulently spending about $20,000 at Smith's, with roughly half of that amount going toward prepaid credit cards or gift cards.
White sometimes made fraudulent purchases using the account of Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind while outside of Utah, charges say. Investigators were able to "place" her out of state at the time of those purchase, court documents state.
Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind officials received a report about account balances each month, but they were prepared by White, who charges say doctored them to cover up fraud.
"White was the only person entering transactions into this accounting system, performing bank reconciliations and preparing the report," the charges say. "Auditors noted several ways … White manipulated and falsified the reports, including efforts to conceal the theft of donated funds."
White allegedly used her office's tax exempt status for personal purchases as well.
Authorities interviewed White's former colleagues as part of the investigation, including an interview with her former human resources manager, "to whom she admitted her conduct after being confronted with the allegations," court documents say.
"This investigation has identified a criminal scheme used to steal money from the accounts of the Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind and communications that were made to conceal and prolong the scheme," charge state.
The audit into Utah Schools For the Deaf and Blind concluded that White purchased groceries, holiday gifts, clothes, pet supplies and decorations through the use of the office's taxpayer and donated funds. All of White's fraudulent transactions were put to "personal use," according to court documents.
Some payments on behalf of the office were not made in time, resulting in a little more than $1,500 in late fees, the audit also concluded.
"I'm troubled to see somebody as callous as this who would steal funds that were donated to help deaf and blind students," Utah State Auditor John Dougall said when the audit report was published. "To me, that just is above and beyond the pale of what we normally see when it comes to theft."
White had worked for the Utah State Office of Education in some capacity for 17 years, Dougall said at the time, though he didn't use her name.
Joel Coleman, superintendent for the Schools for the Deaf and Blind, said in July that an employee who was new at the time had found evidence of financial fraud and reported it, which led to the office to request the help of the state auditor.
Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind is funded partly by money appropriated by the Legislature. It also uses donations. Two previous audits of donated funding failed to catch the fraudulent activity because certain documents had been altered, Coleman said in July.
"She would falsify the supporting documentation. She fabricated invoices completely," he said. "That flew below the radar of both of the auditors previously. … She was pretty good at what she did, unfortunately."
According to Coleman, his office has improved oversight of financial card spending, among other policy improvements, as a result of the audit. He has previously said White was fired when the fraud was detected, though he also didn't refer to her by name.
"I'm just disgusted," he said in July. "For the life of me, I can't understand someone who would steal money donated to deaf and blind children. It just makes me sick."
White's initial court date is scheduled for Nov. 1. No arrest warrant has been filed in her case.
Court records show that White has no significant prior criminal history in the state, though the University of Utah filed a debt collection case against her in 2009 that was resolved in May.