Edmond City Employee Accused of Embezzling More than $5,000

An Edmond city employee is charged with embezzlement, accused of keeping customer deposits intended to start new utility accounts.

According to reports, Tessa Seales, 46, of Edmond, is accused of taking up to $5,600 in deposits that she was not authorized to take, and keeping the cash deposits for personal use.

Police say the case began when a potential Edmond utility customer paid a deposit for utilities, but soon requested a deposit refund after deciding not to rent a home in Edmond.

Ross VanderHamm, the City of Edmond Finance Director, said that Seales was not authorized to take deposits, but instead should have directed customers to a cashier to make their deposits. However, customers say the woman took their cash deposits and placed it beside her keyboard.

Police say Seales initially denied taking cash deposits from new utility customers, but later admitted to taking the cash and entering "no deposit required" in her computer to start the accounts. She allegedly admitted that she took the $100 to $200 deposits six to eight times, for a total of $1,200.

Investigators, however, say that they can "prove" that she took up to 12 deposits totaling $2,200, and they believe that she is responsible for embezzling up to 28 transactions totaling $5,600. 

Embezzlement is defined as misappropriating money or property to which a person is entrusted. Generally, it involves theft of money or property from an employer or an organization with which one works. 

In Oklahoma, embezzlement is prosecuted as either a misdemeanor or felony. The severity of the charge and associated penalties vary dependent on the value of the cash or property involved:

1. If the value of the property embezzled is less than Five Hundred Dollars ($500.00), any person convicted shall be punished by a fine not exceeding One Thousand Dollars ($1,000.00), or by imprisonment in the county jail for a term not more than one (1) year, or by both such fine and imprisonment;

2. If the value of the property embezzled is Five Hundred Dollars ($500.00), or more but less than One Thousand Dollars ($1,000.00), any person convicted shall be guilty of a felony and shall be punished by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than one (1) year or by imprisonment in the county jail for one or more nights or weekends pursuant to Section 991a-2 of Title 22 of the Oklahoma Statutes, at the discretion of the court, and shall be subject to a fine not exceeding Five Thousand Dollars ($5,000.00), and ordered to pay restitution to the victim as provided in Section 991f of Title 22 of the Oklahoma Statutes;

3. If the value of the property embezzled is One Thousand Dollars ($1,000.00) or more but less than Twenty-five Thousand Dollars ($25,000.00), any person convicted shall be guilty of a felony and shall be punished by imprisonment in the custody of the Department of Corrections for a term of not more than five (5) years, and a fine of not exceeding Five Thousand Dollars ($5,000.00), and ordered to pay restitution to the victim as provided in Section 991f of Title 22 of the Oklahoma Statutes; or

4. If the value of the property embezzled is Twenty-five Thousand Dollars ($25,000.00) or more, any person convicted shall be guilty of a felony and shall be punished by imprisonment in the custody of the Department of Corrections for a term of not more than ten (10) years, and a fine not exceeding Ten Thousand Dollars ($10,000.00), and ordered to pay restitution to the victim as provided in Section 991f of Title 22 of the Oklahoma Statutes.

In this case, the defendant is charged with one felony count of embezzlement. If convicted, she faces up to 5 years in prison.

Image Credit: 401(K) 2012

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