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NEWS RELEASE

OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY

WESTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI


JOHN F. WOOD


Contact Don Ledford, Public Affairs ● (816) 426-4220 ● 400 East Ninth Street, Room 5510 ● Kansas City, MO 64106

www.usdoj.gov/usao/mow/index.html


OCTOBER 6, 2008

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


FORMER WATER DISTRICT OFFICIALS PLEAD GUILTY

TO MAIL FRAUD CONSPIRACY


HUSBAND, WIFE EMBEZZLED $390,000

FROM WATER DISTRICT NO. 4


            KANSAS CITY, Mo. – John F. Wood, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that the long-time president of a public water district and his wife, who served as the district’s clerk, pleaded guilty in federal court today to embezzling more than $390,000 in a mail fraud conspiracy.


            Stephen C. Collier, 62, and his wife, Sharron K. Collier, 62, both of Rich Hill, Mo., waived their right to a grand jury and pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Ortrie D. Smith this afternoon to conspiracy to commit mail fraud.


            Stephen Collier served on the board of Public Water Supply District No. 4, which covers southern Bates County and northern Vernon County, Mo., since 1978. During a substantial period of that time before resigning in April 2007, he served as president of the board. Sharron Collier served as the clerk of the water district for 10 years before being terminated in April or May 2007.


            The Colliers admitted that they participated in a conspiracy to defraud the water district from 1999 to July 2007.


            The Colliers created a fictitious company called American Expressways, falsely claiming that it was a consulting company engaged in legitimate business with the water district. Stephen and Sharron Collier each opened separate American Express credit card accounts and used the cards to charge personal items and expenses. Each month, they submitted bills or invoices under the name of American Expressways to the water district, claiming the bill was for legitimate consulting expenses. Those payments were for the same amount as their American Express credit card expenditures for the corresponding month.


            As a result of this conspiracy, the Colliers caused $390,367 to be paid by the water district to their American Express credit card accounts.


            After Sharron Collier was terminated from the water district, she opened a mail box account in the name of American Expressways in Joplin, Mo. The Colliers then began mailing the invoices to the water district using this post office box as the return address.


            By pleading guilty today, the Colliers agreed to pay $390,367 in restitution and agreed to sell or forfeit their 120-acre farm property to help satisfy that restitution.


            Under federal statutes, the Colliers are each subject to a sentence of up to five years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $250,000. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.


            This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney David M. Ketchmark. It was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.


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This news release, as well as additional information about the office of the United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, is available on-line at

www.usdoj.gov/usao/mow/index.html