Officials: Court clerk suspected of taking $15K

Kent County Courthouse

WARWICK, RI (WPRI) — Target 12 has learned an investigation is underway into thousands of dollars in missing cash from the 3rd District Court in Warwick, and a clerk has been suspended from her job in connection with the investigation.

“I can confirm we received a complaint from the court about a theft,” State Police Major Todd Catlow said. “We started investigating April 15.”

Sources told Target 12 the scheme involved court costs tied to arrest warrants. We found out in many cases justices of the peace insist on cash from defendants for the $125 court cost because many of them have already failed to appear for court dates or did not pay fines, prompting the arrest warrants.

Sources said the suspected clerk would allegedly write “warrant withdrawn” on the paperwork that was returned to the 3rd District Court Clerk’s office. When a warrant is rightfully withdrawn, the court cost is waived. But in these cases the clerk allegedly wrote “warrant withdrawn”, and kept the cash several times.

Catlow told Target 12 about $15,000 in cash is missing and that the case dates back to September.

According to a 3rd District Court phone list, the suspect is a records clerk data entry aide. Records reviewed by Target 12 indicate she was paid $38,192 in 2013. Sources said allegations that money was missing from the Warwick based courthouse surfaced about two months ago.

Craig Berke, Director of Communications for the Rhode Island Supreme Court, would not comment on any specifics about this case, but did confirm “there is an ongoing investigation involving a personnel matter.”

“I cannot comment further,” Berke wrote in an email to Target 12.

Target 12 called the suspected clerk’s phone number at the Kent County Courthouse, but we were told “she no longer works” there.

No word from anyone involved with the investigation whether or not the missing court costs have impacted any defendants’ case.

Send tips to Target 12 Investigator Walt Buteau at wbuteau@wpri.com and follow him on Twitter @wbuteau.

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