The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Former township treasurer charged with 9 felonies in embezzlement case

 


By RICHARD JENKINS

rjenkins@yourdailyglobe.com

Bessemer — The former Ironwood Township treasurer was charged with nine felonies Monday, alleging she embezzled money while serving in office.

Jyl Olson-DeRosso, 47, is charged with five counts of forgery, one count of embezzlement by a public official, refusing to turn over records to the successor treasurer, removal and destruction of public records and using public money for her own use.

The charges stem from the period from 2011 to 2016, when Olson-DeRosso lost the November election to current treasurer Maria Graser, according to Gogebic County Prosecutor Nick Jacobs.

“Upon taking office, Graser discovered the former treasurer removed all township records stored on her computer and also failed to turn over other important records essential for the daily operations of the treasurer’s office,” Jacobs said in a press release announcing the charges. “Further inspection revealed township money had been diverted by Olson-DeRosso to her own personal use, prompting an investigation by the Michigan State Police-Wakefield Post in conjunction with the Michigan Department of Treasury, who performed an audit of the township’s Trust and Agency accounts and Tax Fund analysis from 2011 to 2016.”

Jacobs alleges Olson-DeRosso issued checks to herself and took cash funds in the amount of $114,470 from the tax fund and $81,392 from the trust and agency fund — for a total amount of $196,862 in the five year period between 2011 and 2016.

Township Supervisor Steve Boyd was dismayed at the news of the charges.

“We were shocked, disappointed and disgusted,” Boyd told the Daily Globe. “We’re grateful to the state police and the state department of treasury for their investigation and all the work they put in on it.

“We look forward to a speedy resolution and full restitution.”

Given the five-year period referenced by Jacobs, Boyd — who served as a township trustee for eight years prior to being elected supervisor in November — acknowledged some people may question why the township’s board didn’t discover or act on the problem earlier; but he argued the township did take steps to solve the issues they were aware of. However, he said, given the board didn’t grasp the scope or exact nature of the issue, these steps were unsuccessful.

“When (problems) were brought to the attention of the treasurer, we received insufficient explanations; they were then brought up to the auditors, and discrepancies came up there. We hired two additional auditors to come in and look, because we suspected problems, one of them said there was nothing criminal,” Boyd said. “We also instituted — not realizing the extent of what was going on — we instituted many programs to try to get to the bottom of this.”

The theft of money prior to 2011 remains under investigation, according to Jacobs.

“Additional charges remain a possibility if the investigation discloses new crimes not already reported,” he told the Daily Globe.

Each forgery charge carries a potential maximum sentence of 14 years in prison; the embezzlement charge is punishable by up to 10 years in prison or $5,000; refusing to turn over records to the successor treasurer is punishable by up to four years in prison and/or $5,000; and removal or destruction of public records and using public money each have a maximum potential sentence of up to two years in prison or a $1,000 fine.

Olson-DeRosso served as treasurer from 1998 to 2016.

In September, the Ironwood Township Board approved a contract with the Michigan Department of Treasury’s audit division to resolve discrepancies with the township’s 2015 audit.

Boyd said this agreement is what started the process that resulted in Monday’s charges.

“This is a direct result of the state investigation of the records that was initiated in September,” Boyd said. “As the state investigated what we asked them to, they also uncovered additional problems.”

The agreement was one of several attempts the board made to account for approximately $50,000 missing from the township’s water and utilities funds.

At its July 25 meeting, the board approved requesting the state police open an investigation into the unaccounted-for money. Then-supervisor Alan Baron reported at the board’s Aug. 8 meeting the MSP request was put on hold. According to information presented at the meeting, the investigation was paused until the board and its auditing firm completed the 2015 audit and had some evidence of the possible commission of a crime.

While the expanded treasury investigation led to Monday’s charges, Boyd said the state is still working to resolve the discrepancies into the water and utilities funds that were the subject of the original request.

Olson-DeRosso submitted her resignation at the July 25 meeting, which she later rescinded Aug. 19.

The township has received several communications from the state for having failed to complete its 2015 audit, including one briefly discussed at the May 8 board meeting, but the various financial discrepancies has continued to prevent its completion.

Olson-DeRosso is being held at the Gogebic County Jail on a $100,000 cash bond.

 
 

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