Court clerk suspected of taking $15K pleads not guilty

WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — A court clerk has pleaded not guilty to stealing thousands of dollars from the 3rd District Court in Warwick.

Maria Bennison is facing charges of embezzlement and access to a computer for fraudulent purposes. As the Target 12 Investigators first reported, reports of missing money surfaced about two months ago. The court then began an internal investigation and discovered 120 transactions with errors from September 2013 through March 2014, according to court documents.

According to a police affidavit, most of those transactions with errors show that a “$125 warrant fee recovered from the bail commissioner was not entered into the computer software as having been received. “

Sources said the suspected clerk would allegedly write “warrant withdrawn” on the paperwork that was returned to the 3rd District Court Clerk’s office. When a warrant is rightfully withdrawn, the court cost is waived. But in these cases the clerk allegedly wrote “warrant withdrawn”, and kept the cash several times.

The affidavit goes on to say that in all 120 transactions in question, the login on the receipt is ‘MBennison’. The total amount of missing cash totals about $14,985.30.

Craig Berke, Director of Communications for the Rhode Island Supreme Court, would not comment on any specifics about this case to Target 12, but did confirm “there is an ongoing investigation involving a personnel matter.”

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

Bennison was released on $10,000 personal recognizance and is due back in court on June 27.

Walt Buteau contributed to this report.

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