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Investigators Struggle to Track Stolen Funds

Investigators Struggle to Track Stolen Funds



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OGDEN, Utah (AP) -- Investigators here are trying to answer the $1-million question: Where did Denise Aughney spend the money she's charged with embezzling from the Weber County School Foundation?

Aughney, 47, of South Jordan is accused of taking $979,000 from foundation accounts over a period of about seven years. She is currently in the Weber County Jail charged with 57 counts of theft, money laundering and forgery. The foundation, a nonprofit fundraising group for the district, has also filed a civil lawsuit.

But police investigators and school district officials may have hard time tracking how the money was spent because Aughney allegedly deposited forged checks into her credit card and personal accounts before spending it.

That makes it hard to determine which purchases were made with stolen funds, or money Aughney legitimately earned.

Foundation attorney Bryan Benard said investigators have begun to access some financial records, but the work is slow-going.

Tracing the money to purchases will have no bearing on the charges Aughney faces, Weber County sheriff's Lt. Phil Howell said.

But "it might go to intent or mitigation at sentencing, like if half the money went for a sick child, for example," he said.

How the money was used might also impact any court-ordered restitution. Howell also said investigators are checking to see if Aughney used stolen funds to purchase assets that could be seized.

Among the Aughney's rumored expenditures were a number of vacations, police and district officials said.

An investigation of Aughney began in November, after foundation officials found discrepancies in financial records.

In a court affidavit, Aughney acknowledges using foundation funds to buy a 2004 Kawasaki WaveRunner and to make some payments on a 2000 Chevrolet Camaro.

Aughney was employed by the district for 11 years and fired in December. She had been working a 30 hour week for the district at an hourly salary of $14.94.

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Information from: The Standard-Examiner, www.standard.net

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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