Accused payroll thief could also face civil charges
BRENTWOOD — Potential charges against an office administrator accused of inflating her husband’s paycheck at the county jail may be limited by a six-year cap, but Rockingham County has the option to pursue a civil lawsuit to recoup any money taken prior to 2007, County Attorney James Reams said on Thursday.
“We can go back criminally six years,” Reams said. “But the county can go back further civilly to recoup the funds.”
Reams said Ann Marie Nelson, 55, of Chester, remains the focus of their investigation into her husband being overpaid roughly $12,000 while he was employed as a correctional officer at the Rockingham County jail.
She was indicted earlier this month by a grand jury on two counts of felony theft by deception for allegedly manipulating payroll records so that Keith Nelson claimed extra money for shifts and overtime that he never actually worked, according to indictments.
Keith Nelson, a former corporal at the county jail, has not been charged.Ann Marie Nelson oversaw payroll for all corrections employees at the Brentwood jail. Department administrators typically forward their payroll to the county’s finance department, according to prosecutors. A jail official flagged a payroll record in May, which set off the investigation, Reams said.
An audit of the county’s payroll records garnered enough evidence to indict Nelson for allegedly stealing from the county since last July.
A far-reaching audit now underway by county officials and investigators will ultimately determine if Nelson’s alleged theft stretched back further, Reams said.
He said there has been nothing revealed in the probe yet to suggest that inflated paydays went to anyone else other than Keith Nelson.
Reams declined to say whether Keith Nelson will be charged in the case.
“It’s too early to tell. We’ll see where the investigation leads,” Reams said.
Reams said on Thursday that he expects the criminal probe that is delving into county accounting records to last about a month.
Nelson and her husband were suspended from their jobs once the investigation began. They no longer work for the county.
Nelson is facing a pair of Class A felonies, each punishable by up to 7½ to 15 years in state prison. She is scheduled for arraignment on Sept. 26 in Rockingham County Superior Court.