News and Press Releases

water district clerk pleads guilty to mail fraud scheme

March 9, 2011

KANSAS CITY, Mo.– Beth Phillips, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that the former clerk of two Bates County, Mo., public water districts pleaded guilty in federal court today to a mail fraud scheme in which she embezzled up to $77,870 from the districts.

Valerie Jill Berry, 36, of Butler, Mo., pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Dean Whipple to all of the charges contained in an April 7, 2010, federal indictment.

Berry was the sole clerk and bill collector for both the Bates County Public Water Supply Districts No. 1 and No. 6 from July 1, 2001, until she was terminated on Sept. 12, 2008. The business of both water districts was conducted from an office in Butler, and customers of both water districts paid their bills at that location.

When customers of the water districts paid their bills with cash, Berry credited their accounts for the payments. However, when Berry prepared bank deposit tickets for the payments received from customers, she included the checks but omitted some of the cash receipts and did not deposit all of the cash received. Berry admitted that she stole some of the cash receipts of the water districts.

The government believes that Berry embezzled a total of $77,870 from the two water districts. Under the terms of today’s plea agreement, Berry reserves the right to contest this amount of loss.

In order to conceal her theft, Berry submitted fraudulent reports to the Office of the Missouri State Auditor for PWSD No. 1 and provided false information to an independent auditor for PWSD No. 6, which caused the auditor to submit fraudulent reports to the state. Berry pleaded guilty today to six counts of mail fraud, related to the fraudulent reports that she caused to be mailed to the state auditor.

            Under federal statutes, Berry is subject to a sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison without parole on each of the six counts, plus a fine up to $250,000 on each count. 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 Linda Parker Marshall. It was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

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