PHILADELPHIA - A former Berks County row officer has been indicted on charges she defrauded the county of tens of thousands of dollars, federal prosecutors announced Tuesday.
Ellie Antioine carried out the fraud while she served as the county's recorder of deeds between 2004 and 2007, officials said.
A forensic auditor determined that, for all but 10 days between Dec. 1, 2004, and Dec. 31, 2007, approximately $153,402.30 in cash was received at Antoine's office, but the money was never deposited into the office bank accounts, according to the indictment.
Antoine, now 68, of Bluffton, S.C., established office policies and procedures that enabled her to convert unreported fees paid to the office into cash and devised a fee structure for the recording of official documents and deeds that did not refund over-payments, according to the indictment. Antoine allegedly accumulated the money in her office safe.
Antoine also stands accused of prohibiting employees from attempting to verify the amount of money received from the office copying machines, going so far as firing an employee who attempted to correlate the number of copies made each day with the copying fees the office collected, according to the indictment.
Berks County Commissioner, Christian Leinbach, assisted in the investigation, and explained that county officials became aware of the potential problems in 2008.
"When it was turned over to the feds, there was full cooperation on the part of the county," said Leinbach. " When I see potential wrongdoing, what goes through my mind is let's get to the truth. And so we did everything we could to get to the truth."
Antoine is also charged with not claiming the additional money on her 2006 and 2007 federal income tax returns.
If convicted of all charges, federal officials said Antoine faces up to 106 years in prison, a fine of up to $1.75 million and three years' supervised release.
Antoine's attorney, James Polyak, released a statement following the indictment:
"Ellie Antoine faithfully served the citizens of Berks County for 12 years as elected recorder of deeds. She discharged her official duties with fidelity and honesty and has committed no crime. She looks forward to being found not guilty at trial."
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