RUTLEDGE, Tenn. (WATE) — A former Grainger High School bookkeeper is facing theft charges after she allegedly stole more than $35,000 from the school according to the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office.
In July, the Grainger County Grand Jury indicted Valerie Anne Combs on one count of theft over $10,000. Combs was the school’s bookkeeper for more than six years before she resigned Feb. 28, 2018.
She was responsible for receiving and depositing money, preparing and signing checks,
recording transactions in the school’s records, and reviewing and reconciling school bank statements. The comptroller’s investigation found that Combs used several schemes to misappropriate school money and conceal her activities.
“There were several weaknesses within the school’s financial processes that allowed this theft to go undetected for several years,” Comptroller Justin P. Wilson said. “The former bookkeeper was largely responsible for nearly all the financial activities of the school, and school officials failed to ensure deposits were made intact or review charge card statements and invoices prior to payment.”
Investigators discovered that Combs used a check-swap scheme to steal cash. In an example, the comptroller said she received a $600 check from a business for a promotional banner to be displayed at athletic events. She did not issue a receipt for the check or record it in the school accounting system.
Instead, Combs exchanged the check for cash from other school collections – effectively “cashing” the check through the collection drawer for her own personal use. Combs also altered school records and manipulated receipts for school cash collections to conceal her misappropriation of cash. In all, investigators found that Combs stole $34,754 in cash.
Additionally, Combs used the school purchasing card for personal purchases totaling $643. These purchases included wine, a kitchen blender, and various food items. Investigators are also probing more than $7,000 in other purchases of mostly food and other grocery items that can’t be definitively tied to Combs.
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